I am happy to announce that, in the f-locked version posted over here in my own LJ, Autumn Sunshine is accompanied by an exquisite piece of artwork titled Frodo Dreams, which some of you have doubtless already seen, by the irrepressible, the inimitable, the incomparable bandwench! To quote bandwench herself, it almost seems like she was channelling my fic when she was working on this stunning piece of artwork — because the imagery fits so very well with a certain scenario in my story! (Erm, *I* am the one saying that it's stunning!)
Title: Autumn Sunshine
Rating: NC-17 - Adult
Warnings: Slash. Mild angst. Illustration with naked aroused male body parts (my LJ version only)
Summary: Sam is finding that the autumn is a sad time to be without the one he is madly in love with
Author's Notes: This is an eco-friendly recycled fic, as it's a slightly revised and extended version of one I first wrote over a year ago titled Autumn Leaves. For their generosity I would like to offer grateful thanks to my lovely caring friend melyanna_65 for encouragement and checking over the new version of the fic, and also to the talented and generous bandwench for permission to use her Frodo Dreams artwork *blows kisses*
Disclaimer: Sadly, the hobbits do not belong to me and I make no money from writing about them
Autumn was a sad time. A bad time to feel lonely, Sam decided, as he raked the last few remaining leaves from the lawn of the Bag End garden and put them into the wheelbarrow.
It had never really got light all day, and he could hear the steady drip-drip of moisture from the trees in the dank, still air of that mid-November day. Sam emptied the leaves from the wheelbarrow onto the compost heap. Their usual bright golden and russet hues seemed to have turned into a dull monochrome in the failing afternoon light.
Sam felt as if he had swallowed a large rock that was dragging him down, down, towards the damp earth beneath his feet. With leaden movements he used his hands to pick out the few remaining leaves that clung stubbornly to the inside of the wheelbarrow. As he dropped them slowly onto the compost heap, he felt as if he were dropping the last of his hopes and dreams, one by one. Forlorn, crumpled. Gone. All gone.
It was the third day in a row now that he hadn't needed to tend to the fire in Mr Frodo's bedroom. Gone, Mr Bilbo had told him. Gone to stay with his cousins at Brandy Hall for a while. No, Mr Bilbo couldn't say how long Mr Frodo would be away for — possibly several weeks. He thought Frodo perhaps needed a change of scenery — he'd been looking rather pale and preoccupied recently, Mr Bilbo had explained.
As Sam put the rake into the wheelbarrow and set off across the garden, he came to a sudden halt and dropped the handles as his body was wracked by a huge sob that seemed to have been wrenched from the very depths of him. He fiercely dashed the back of his hand across his eyes before quickly grasping the wheelbarrow handles again and continuing his trek across the garden. It wouldn't never do for his old Gaffer to see he'd been crying, would it? He'd never hear the last of it ...
But why? Why had Mr Frodo chosen to disappear now, after what had happened just last weekend? It seemed so horribly unfair. Sam dashed the back of his hand over his eyes again as he went to pick up some old canes he'd been meaning to put away in the garden shed. He hoped his tears wouldn't have made obvious tracks through the grime that inevitably accumulated on his face whilst he was working outdoors.
It was all so clear in Sam's memory, as if it had only happened a few minutes ago. Early one evening he'd finished clearing up in the Bag End kitchen, hoping he might manage to catch a glimpse of his beloved Mr Frodo before going home for the night. He'd been trying his best to make sure neither of the occupants of Bag End would catch on to his real feelings, though it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to keep them under wraps. He was worried that, sooner or later, they were bound to notice something.
There was no immediate concern this particular evening, however. Mr Bilbo was in his study writing away, and Mr Frodo was, mysteriously, nowhere to be seen. Fires were burning brightly in the kitchen, the parlour and Mr Frodo's bedroom, but they had no-one to appreciate their warmth as the logs crackled away merrily in the grate.
Sam had gone down into the cellar to fetch more logs. As he reached the bottom of the steps he'd heard something small skittering away into the darkness beyond the reach of the small candle flame. Mice, Sam had concluded and, after carrying a basket full of logs into the kitchen, he'd put on his jacket, picked up a lantern, and walked over to the garden shed to collect some more mousetraps.
Sam had been surprised to find the door of the garden shed slightly ajar, but even more surprised to discover Mr Frodo himself, well wrapped up against the cold in his old fur-lined riding-cloak, a woollen scarf and leather gloves, just sitting there all alone in the dark. He was half curled-up in that old armchair by the window near the back of the shed — the one that had been moved out from the parlour when Mr Bilbo had a new chair delivered. Of course they now had the beam from the lantern, but prior to that the moonlight shining through the window would have been all he had to see by.
"Sam!" Mr Frodo had immediately jumped up out of the chair as if startled out of some reverie, blinking a little in the unexpected light from the lantern, and looking somewhat embarrassed. "I ... I'm sorry, Sam. I wasn't sure ... I didn't know whether ... "
"There's no need to apologise or nothin', Mr Frodo," Sam had replied, taking a few seconds to regain his composure after the shock of discovering his master sitting there by himself in the corner. He slowly drew nearer to Mr Frodo. "When all's said an' done, this 'ere shed belongs to Bag End, an' there ain't no reason to think you shouldn't come an' sit out here, if that's what you want."
Mr Frodo had nodded, a slight worried frown appearing on that wonderfully smooth, pale forehead of his. "Erm ... thank you for saying that, Sam." Mr Frodo looked as if he were going to say something further, but bit his lip instead.
Mr Frodo's face was only inches away from Sam's now. It was so cold that Sam could see little puffs of smoky breath escaping from Mr Frodo's mouth into the chilly night air and mingling with his own. If he weren't mistaken, Mr Frodo's breathing seemed a mite rapid, too.
Sam, gaining a little in boldness and anxious to say something — anything — to fill the awkward ensuing silence, ventured, "Is everythin' all right, Mr Frodo? I mean, not that it's any o' my business or aught ..."
He saw Mr Frodo swallow a little. "No, Sam. I mean, yes. Well, sort of. I suppose this is your business ... in a way. Our business, perhaps." Mr Frodo was gazing right at him, those oh-so-expressive eyebrows slightly knitted, as if willing Sam to somehow read the unspoken words in his eyes.
Sam had gazed right back into those enormous blue eyes, so very close to his own. He had opened his mouth to ask another question, and his lips worked a little but nothing came out. He was afraid to move, afraid to speak, in case it shattered the dream. Because surely this had to be just a dream, didn't it? This vision of Mr Frodo would probably vanish like a candle flame extinguished by the cold draught of reality that would almost certainly blow through the cold, musty-smelling garden shed any moment now.
But no, this was no vision. "It's no accident that I'm in here, Sam. In fact I've been here for perhaps an hour now, hoping that ..." Mr Frodo had bitten his lip again and gazed even more intensely into Sam's eyes, as if afraid that he might say too much, too soon, but yet at the same time wanting Sam to understand everything. Everything.
Sam's heart lurched in his chest and his hands began to shake a little. Mr Frodo looked so earnest, so intense. Could this be the moment he'd been waiting for all this time? Were all his dreams about to come true?
Sam hardly dared to breathe. At the same time he was aware of it happening again, as his breeches began to feel suffocatingly tight. He just couldn't help himself. That was the effect Mr Frodo had on him when he got close, and there was naught he could do about it. Thank Eru his jacket was all buttoned up and Mr Frodo wouldn't be able to see it.
Sam had felt a slight flush rising to his cheeks as Mr Frodo had carried on, "If this garden shed belongs to anyone, Sam, it belongs to you. I know you keep all your tools here and ..." At that moment Mr Frodo turned to his left and gestured into the darkness around him. His head suddenly came into contact with a large old cobweb that was hanging there, just where the low, sloping wooden roof met the wall.
"Ugh!" Frodo had grinned at Sam — that delightful, gap-toothed grin of his that lit up his whole face, and where you could see a little bit of his tongue peeping out — and suddenly he was back to being more like the usual Mr Frodo that Sam saw most days. One gloved hand had shot up instinctively to try and brush off the sticky threads clinging to his face and hair.
It was always going to be difficult to get rid of that cobweb wearing those gloves, and Sam had instinctively, without thinking, put the lantern down on a nearby workbench and reached out to begin picking the offending tangles from his master's hair. Sam had worked carefully, wiping the sticky strands from his fingers onto his old jacket while Mr Frodo had stood there, his expression rapt but looking less serious now, and a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
Sam had deliberately taken his time, secretly thanking whichever spider had afforded him this unprecedented opportunity of running his slightly trembling fingers through those dark curls, so soft and silky. There were just a few sticky strands left that had got caught on Mr Frodo's creamy-pale cheek, now slightly flushed following Sam's ministrations.
"There's just one more strand here, an' if I can get that then we're finished," Sam had told him, wondering how his rough gardener's hand must have felt against that satiny-smooth skin of Mr Frodo's. And then, as his finger brushed down along Mr Frodo's cheek, as delicately as he could manage, the gloved hand had quickly come up again to grasp his wrist like velvet-clad iron.
Sam simply stopped, as if frozen in time and space. The blue eyes, now dark and serious once more in the lantern-light, held his just as surely as the grip around his wrist. Sam had to try and remember to breathe. That exquisitely-shaped mouth was hovering only inches from his own. Just above the sound of the blood hammering in his own ears, Sam was sure he could hear the sound of Mr Frodo's breathing coming faster and faster. He could see their smoky breath mingling between them in the frosty air.
Sam waited. It was probably just a few moments, but it felt like a hundred years. Almost imperceptibly, he had inched his mouth a little closer to Mr Frodo's. He heard it then — a low, half-stifled gasp as Mr Frodo's eyelids fluttered shut. Sam could almost hear the stars in the clear night sky above them shuddering to a halt, and see the moon leaning in closer to watch them through the small window.
For Sam, it had been the most intoxicatingly wonderful sensation he had ever experienced in his life as, with their hands grasping each other's shoulders, Mr Frodo's mouth had met his in sweet surrender and they had kissed, frantically and ravenously, until they'd been forced to break for air. Mr Frodo had smiled at him, amazement and delight and relief in his eyes, then cupping Sam's face in his hands and murmuring, "Oh, Sam!" before flinging his arms tightly around Sam's waist.
Surely Sam couldn't have imagined those words, could he? Or the expression on Mr Frodo's face? Sam had felt taut as a bow, white-hot desire singing through his veins as the tightness in his breeches had become unbearable. He had almost torn the buttons from his jacket in his overwhelming need for more intimate contact, and he had pulled Mr Frodo up close against him after pushing aside the folds of his cloak.
Wild horses couldn't have stopped him — he had so badly wanted Mr Frodo to know what dramatic effect his master was having on him as, delirious with excitement, he'd placed his hands firmly around Mr Frodo's rear and thrust right up against him.
They'd begun kissing again, tongues exploring wildly, and Mr Frodo had moaned into his mouth as their two hardened arousals had met, even the cloth of both pairs of breeches between them unable to muffle their burgeoning desire. And then ... "Frodo! Frodo, where are you?" It was Mr Bilbo, obviously having noticed that Frodo was missing from all his usual haunts around the smial.
Mr Frodo had leaped back, his eyes round with horror, quickly disentangling himself from Sam's embrace and rearranging his cloak around himself as if to carefully cover up the evidence of their clandestine fumblings. Sam knew his shoulders must have slumped as he'd shaken his head despairingly.
Sam had looked up, hoping to engage Mr Frodo's gaze again and read in his eyes what he hoped would happen next, but it was too late. Mr Frodo was already heading for the shed door, smoothing down his cloak as he went. He shot a look over his shoulder at Sam, full of concern, and had merely whispered, "Sam, I have to leave now!"
All of a sudden another familiar voice impinged itself on his consciousness as Sam heard the Gaffer calling, "Samwise! Where've you got to, lad?" As if there were some kind of co-ordinated hunt for them going on. Sam shook his head again, almost angrily.
Trying his utmost to recover his composure and hold on to his dignity, Sam had quickly fastened his jacket and muttered, "Well, I only came down to the shed to get some mousetraps, so I'd better find some, quick." Then he had picked up the lantern and swiftly rummaged through the old musty-smelling cupboard before following Mr Frodo out through the door.
Well, he'd been right about that cold blast of reality coming in and blowing everything away, hadn't he? Sam knew his face was still most likely flushed. He took a few deep breaths and tried once more to compose his features into a mask of casualness as Mr Bilbo came striding towards them. "Ah, there you are, Frodo! I was getting a little worried because I couldn't find you." Sam watched as Mr Bilbo's kindly features softened into a smile in the dim light thrown out by the lantern.
A few moments later the Gaffer came striding into view. "What've you been up to, my lad?" he wanted to know. "Your supper's goin' cold on yon table!"
Sam hoped his voice wouldn't tremble and betray him before he answered, "I'm sorry, Pa! I heard somethin' scufflin' around in the cellar, mice more'n likely, an' I came out here to find some more mousetraps." He held out his hand with the evidence. "Mr Frodo was helpin' me look for 'em. Just goin' to set 'em up, an' I'll be back home sharpish, like."
"Sam, please don't worry about doing that right now! I really wouldn't want your evening meal to be ruined, and one more night won't make a great deal of difference, will it?" Mr Bilbo had said.
"I suppose not, sir," Sam had responded. "If it's all the same with you then, Mr Bilbo, I'll set the traps up first thing tomorrow."
"That'll be just fine, Samwise, thank you. Goodnight, then!" Mr Bilbo had called, as he and Mr Frodo neared the back door.
The Gaffer had then wished Mr Bilbo and Mr Frodo goodnight. Sam felt himself almost rooted to the spot as he watched Mr Bilbo disappear into the warm circle of light from the smial as he opened the door. Almost as if everything were happening in slow motion, Mr Frodo had turned round and called out, in what sounded like a carefully controlled way, "Goodnight then, Sam. Sleep well! And ... thank you."
Sam hadn't been able to clearly make out the expression on Mr Frodo's face in the lantern-light. It had seemed like an eternity before he could gather his wits to answer, "G'night, Mr Frodo," as the object of his affections disappeared from view.
Feeling the need for a few more moments to compose himself, Sam had made a show of going back into the garden shed, putting the mousetraps back in the cupboard before finally closing the door behind him and hurrying to follow the Gaffer back home, desperately hoping that neither his father nor his sisters would be able to see what still felt like a burning flush on his cheeks.
The next morning Mr Frodo's bedroom door and curtains had remained closed until nearly midday. Mr Bilbo had told Sam, "Ah, it's probably best to leave him be! He hasn't really been his usual self recently, so perhaps he just needs a good rest." However, Mr Frodo's 'rest' had been abruptly cut short by the arrival of Mr Merry and Mr Pippin an hour or so later, their bright chatter almost as loud as their fancy waistcoats as they stepped down from the carriage and rang the bell at Bag End's round green front door.
Sam had been half-tempted to hang around inside Bag End as long as he could find sufficient excuse to do so once he'd finished clearing up after Mr Bilbo's lunch. However, he then began to worry about how he might react, especially in front of Mr Bilbo or Mr Merry or Mr Pippin — or worse, all three of them — if he were suddenly confronted with Mr Frodo's presence. So in the end he had given up hope of catching a glimpse of Mr Frodo and had returned to number three Bagshot Row for some belated lunch of his own. Surely at some point later in the day he would catch up with Mr Frodo.
As he ran through the previous evening's events in his mind over and over again, Sam had to keep pinching himself to remind himself it really hadn't all been a dream. One moment he felt totally elated at the memory of holding Mr Frodo in his arms, and — oh! — the exquisite delight of feeling the hardened bulge of Mr Frodo's excitement pressing against him; the next minute he felt absolutely terrified that Mr Frodo had never really meant any of it to happen and would now be full of regrets.
As Sam went about the remainder of his tasks for the day, he longed with quiet desperation to see Mr Frodo again, just to be able to look into his eyes and find there the confirmation he sought that Mr Frodo really had wanted those things to happen, and that he was as full of desire as Sam himself to pick up again where they had left off at the time of being so cruelly interrupted. Surely, when he returned to Bag End later to tend to the fires for the night, he would see Mr Frodo again and he'd find out once and for all.
But it was not to be. As Sam had been putting more logs onto the fire, Mr Bilbo had wandered into the kitchen and casually imparted that Mr Frodo had gone off with Mr Merry and Mr Pippin in their carriage — they had apparently arranged to meet up with friends at the Green Dragon, and Mr Frodo had enthusiastically agreed to join them.
Not only that, but his cousins had invited Mr Frodo to return to Brandy Hall with them afterwards, along with the friends they were meeting. So Mr Frodo had hurriedly packed some clothes and other essentials, and he was gone. What was more, as Mr Bilbo had explained, he had no idea how long Frodo would be away but, going by the pattern of his previous visits there, it could well be several weeks.
Sam had held himself together as well as he could for the remainder of the day, biting his trembling lower lip whenever his emotions threatened to overcome his hard-won composure. But later that night, finally alone in his room at Bagshot Row, he had flung himself down on his bed and wept inconsolably.
Sam swiped at a tear with his thumb yet again. He really had to get a grip on himself and just carry on with his work, else the Gaffer would start suspecting something was up, and that wouldn't do at all. As he moved around the garden with a slightly more determined air, picking up tools and other items as he went and placing them in the wheelbarrow, he began to hear a rustling overhead. The few leaves that still clung to the branches were moving around in the slight breeze that seemed to have sprung up from nowhere.
Sam doggedly carried on with his tasks. As the breeze grew a little stronger, he glanced skyward after a while and noticed that, miraculously, the dull grey haze was beginning to break up and one or two patches of blue had appeared. Well, at least it was something that might help cheer him up a little, Sam thought. He trudged along to the garden shed with the loaded wheelbarrow and began putting away the items he'd collected, forcing himself to run through an old song in his mind to distract himself.
It really wouldn't be a good idea for him to concentrate too much on those heady events that had taken place right here a few nights ago because now, with Mr Frodo disappearing off like that, it was looking as if he'd never really meant any of it and was seeking to put as much distance between himself and Sam as he possibly could. Sam swallowed as he felt a few tears welling up again. He made himself go outside and collect the few remaining things from the wheelbarrow, noticing to his surprise that the sun was now trying to break through the clouds.
As Sam put the garden rake back in its place, a ray of watery sunlight shone through the small window of the shed and onto the old armchair. Sam watched the dusty motes dancing around until his eye was suddenly drawn to what looked like a piece of parchment protruding from the cushion right at the back of the chair. He hadn't noticed it before, but then he'd been avoiding the shed as much as possible, escaping quickly on those occasions when he'd needed to come in here, so as to not be overwhelmed by the bittersweet memories.
Sam picked up the piece of parchment and found it was an envelope with 'Sam' written on the front in Mr Frodo's strong, clear hand. What on earth could this be? Sam noticed, to his relief, that the seal was still intact, but his hands shook a little as he struggled to open the envelope. His legs suddenly felt shaky, and he sat down rather heavily in the old armchair.
Thank goodness Mr Bilbo had learned him his letters, he thought to himself as the neatly-penned words leaped up off the page at him in the late-afternoon sunlight. He could almost hear Mr Frodo's voice speaking to him.
"My dearest Sam,
First, I fervently hope that you will find this. Secondly, I can only apologise for not being able to be here to say these words to you in person."
Sam swallowed nervously, and carried on reading.
"I can only hope, too, that you will remember the recent events in here as clearly as I can, and it would make me enormously happy if they meant to you even half of what they mean to me."
A smile had now begun to spread itself over Sam's handsome features.
"Sam, I'm very aware that you had only come into the shed to look for mousetraps, but instead you found me waiting for you. I can only pray that what followed was your heart's desire as much as it was mine, because I would hate to think you might conceivably have felt you had somehow been trapped by me into acting as you did.
Going by your reactions, I am (perhaps foolishly) daring to hope that it was all genuine on your part, and that you would wish to carry on from where we left off when it becomes possible to do so."
Sam's heart soared. He was clutching at his chest as each sweet new word sank in.
"If you do wish to take matters further, of course the path will not be a smooth and easy one for either of us, and I felt it was only fair to give you the opportunity of having some time alone to think through the possible implications.
Alternatively, just in case I have misread the situation, my probable visit to Brandy Hall will allow both of us to put some time and distance between ourselves and what happened. Sam, if I am mistaken and you do not wish to follow through with what transpired between us, I will comply with your wishes and we need never mention it again. We can just pretend it all never happened, if you prefer."
In a daze of happiness, Sam slowly shook his head. Pretend it had all never happened?! That was the last thing Sam wanted and, to his eternal joy, it seemed like the last thing Mr Frodo wanted, too.
"Although Uncle Bilbo is unaware of it, I know there is a good chance of Merry and Pippin arriving later today, and they will likely invite me back to Brandy Hall. If so, I plan to join them. If you find this letter, it means I will have already left by that time.
I will tell Uncle Bilbo that I might stay at Brandy Hall for a few weeks, but I will return after no more than ten days. When I do, Sam, I hope more than anything else in the world that you will be waiting for me. If you feel the same way, I would ask you to leave some small token for me in the very same place where you found this letter. I shall search for it directly on my return.
Till I see you again,
Your loving Frodo "
Sam leaned back in the old chair and closed his eyes, clutching the precious letter to his chest. He felt a few tears running down his cheeks again, but this time they were tears of happiness as euphoria and relief flooded through him.
So that was the likely reason for Frodo being holed up in his bedroom for most of the following morning. Sam imagined him waking early, lying in his bed mulling over what had happened the previous evening, then tiptoeing down to the study to fetch paper and ink and his quill, trying not to disturb the sleeping Mr Bilbo. And then he had carefully penned this, the most treasured letter in existence.
His eyes still closed, he at last allowed himself the luxury of reliving each delicious moment of that first wondrous kiss and what had followed. And then, as the familiar tightening of his breeches inevitably made its presence known, he felt an urgent, overpowering need for a rather different kind of relief.
Feeling sure his Frodo would understand only too well, he jumped up and secured the shed door with a piece of twine, then drew the tattered curtain across the window, ensuring nothing could disturb his privacy this time. Having first loosened his breeches, Sam sat down in the armchair again. Still clutching the letter to his chest with one hand, he pretended it was Frodo's delicate fingers encircling him as the last rays of the wintry afternoon sun managed to penetrate the curtain and envelop him in a wonderful golden glow.
As his pleasure mounted, Sam wondered if Frodo had been thinking of him in just the same way, or even dreamed about him? He imagined Frodo in his bed at Brandy Hall, tossing and turning in the moonlight filtering through the half-opened curtains, his dark, silky curls a tousled halo against the pristine white pillow.
Sam groaned aloud as his excitement reached fever-pitch, and his fingers moved ever more insistently. In his imagination, a restless Frodo was kicking back the heavy bed-covers, his obvious arousal having a tenting effect on the crumpled nightshirt.
In his mind's eye he saw Frodo frenziedly tugging the nightshirt over his head and throwing it to the floor, exposing the feverish, creamy-pale skin to the moonlight above and the cool linen sheet below. Sam's breath was now coming in ragged gasps.
Frodo threw his head back against the pillow, eyes closed, rosy lips parted, moaning softly as he grasped his hardness in his own hand and began stroking himself rhythmically. Frodo arched his back, then he heard him murmur, "Oh, Sam!", just like he had the other night, as his hand moved ever faster, seeking release. "Oh, yes!"
The vision was too much for one lovelorn hobbit to bear and, with a long, shuddering moan, Sam came to blissful completion. Wave after wave of ecstasy engulfed him. He finally leaned back in the chair, happily satiated but fervently hoping that next time he would be spilling over Frodo's fingers instead of his own.
He knew, too, what token of mutual desire he would leave behind the chair cushion for Frodo. Sam always kept blocks of wood in the shed, occasionally taking out his knife and making small carvings when he had an hour or two to spare. He would lovingly carve a heart for Frodo with his initials etched on one side and Frodo's on the other.
Sam smiled contentedly to himself. He loved Frodo, and Frodo loved him. It was simple; it was perfect. Mayhap the autumn wasn't such a bad time after all. The leaves might be falling from the trees, but Sam had never felt so alive as the autumn sun finally sank below the horizon.