Now Are Frolic
(co-written with Thia)
First it must be clearly understood that the Tooks do not hold an Overlithe Party every year. If they did (say the Tooks), it might grow boring, and Tooks hate boredom. The rest of the Shire believes this explains everything about the Tooks. They're probably right.
Second, it must be acknowledged that the Tooks hadn't invited enough ladies this year. Thus, the morning before the Overlithe Party, Peregrin Took, Everard Took, and Meriadoc Brandybuck pulled Frodo Baggins into Pippin's room and presented him with a dress. Bright blue it was, blue as the sea, blue as the sky, blue as Frodo's eyes (which takes some doing), with pretty ruffles at wrist and neck and hem and across the bosom.
"You're joking," said Frodo.
"No, Frodo, we're doing this because we think you'd look pretty in the dress."
"I thought you said he would."
"Be quiet, Pippin," said both the older hobbits. "Although you really would," Merry added, holding up the dress to Frodo. "It highlights your eyes."
"And with a little bit of makeup..." Everard brandished a box full of face-paints.
"It's one of Pervinca's," Pippin added earnestly. "You won't even have to stuff the front."
Frodo snagged the dress and looked at it skeptically. "It highlights my eyes," he repeated.
"Beautifully," Merry assured him.
"And no one will recognize me."
"Not even Gandalf."
Everard gave Merry a worried look. "Well, maybe Gandalf."
"No," Pippin said reassuringly. "Pa says Gandalf has been drinking since he arrived. His boyfriend broke up with him, though he wouldn't say why. It took Gandalf twenty minutes to recognize Bilbo this morning."
There was a moment of silence in honor of the mere concept of Gandalf having had a boyfriend with whom to break up. Then Merry said, "Well. So long as he remembers we're not goblins."
Frodo cleared his throat. "Will one of you help me on with this?"
The party began at sunset sharp, with a bonfire large enough to roast anyone who stood too close, and lots of food (because this was, after all, a hobbit party). Everyone was there, at least all the parts of everyone who dared a Tuckborough Overlithe Party. There were all the Tooks who were capable of rising from their beds, and a goodly collection of Brandybucks too. There was Folco Boffin and a few daring Boffins, and Fredegar Bolger with one or two other reckless Bolgers. There was Sam Gamgee with Rosie Cotton on his arm, betrothal necklace burning a hole in his pocket, and misery in his heart. He liked Rosie well enough, but not so well he appreciated his Gaffer's subtle hint this afternoon. "She's sweet on you, Samwise, and she'll do well for you. Here's the family betrothal necklace." And Sam could only stammer and stuff the ancestral silver into his pocket and hope Rosie didn't know. By the way she clung to his arm, he didn't hold out much hope.
But it was Overlithe Night at Tuckborough, and anything might happen. Three-quarters of Bywater and half of Hobbiton was here just to have first knowledge of the inevitable scandals and gossip. Gandalf appeared, majestically drunk. Bilbo Baggins appeared, accompanied by an unknown Dwarf with a white beard, fine clothing, and chains of gold about his neck. And then Everard Took and Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck arrived, accompanied by a lass no one recognized.
She was beautiful. Fair skin, dark ringlets loose to her shoulders, and a near-Elvish cast to her features (to Sam's way of thinking). The dress made her eyes look very blue, though it didn't sit on her quite -- Sam blinked hard, then frowned so fiercely Rosie let go of his arm in fright. He didn't even notice, but fought his way over to the new 'lass'. "Mr. Frodo, what do you think you're doing?"
(Everard Took sighed, reached into his pocket, and handed Merry a fistful of coins. Merry took them with a smirk.)
Frodo laid a finger on Sam's lips. "Maura," he corrected.
"...what?" Sam had forgotten whatever scolding he meant to give. Up close, Frodo looked even more beautiful.
"Call me Maura," Frodo repeated with a smile. "And if it's not too forward, would you ask me to dance? I don't care for some of the looks I'm getting."
Sam glanced around. The lads didn't look angry, more...interested. In his Frodo. Sam abandoned even the thought of Rosie without a second's considering. "Of course, si -- Maura."
This early in the evening, the dance floor was still crowded. Not that there was so much a dance floor as a clear space of grass in front of the bonfire, between the circling tables and the trees, but the Tooks worked with what they had. The guests wouldn't all fit in the Great Smial, and would die of heat exhaustion if they tried. Not to mention hobbits wouldn't be able to engage in the other tradition of Overlithe Night, namely couples sneaking off into the underbrush and trees and shadows to, well, return rumpled and smug-looking. The Thain had already been off once, though the whispers varied as to whether he'd been with his wife (who looked rumpled herself) or with the Master of Buckland (who looked smug enough for two, though since his wife's hand had slid down the back of his breeches as they slow-danced, no one could be quite certain of the reason).
Sam and Frodo -- excuse me, Maura -- ran into another problem besides the crowding. Sam had no notion how the lads couldn't recognize his master, but there it was:
"Would you care to dance?"
Not to mention Rosie glaring, and the bewildering moment when Lotho Sackville-Baggins came up to Sam and offered to get him a plate of something. Sam gave him a Look, and refused rather shortly. Asking 'Maura' to dance, well, that simply showed good taste , because Frodo did look a treat in that dress when all was said and done. But luring Sam away from his place, that was simply nasty. Though he'd no notion if Lotho meant to simply draw Sam off to the tables to eat , or something darker, Sam wouldn't leave Frodo's side.
However, not leaving Frodo's side meant dancing.
Sam perhaps should have expected Pippin to have a word with the ensemble playing the dance music. Pippin was a romantic, after all, although in rather the same way that, say, Robin Goodfellow is a romantic. Pippin caught Frodo's eye and winked, then vanished off into the underbrush himself with Merry. That was all the warning either Frodo or Sam got before the players struck up the sort of tune more often heard in the sort of taverns no one admitted existed (but which were highly patronized all the same).
Sam turned to face Frodo. Their eyes met. Frodo smiled, and Sam bowed, feeling a bit of Tookish recklessness (contagious, perhaps, from his immediate proximity to all those Tooks) bubble through him. And they danced. Graceful swirls, long dips so Frodo's hair brushed the grass, body against body in rhythm to the music as it purred through the air. The dance-floor cleared so everyone could watch Sam and this unknown glide across the space, twirl out and then in again, the lass's skirts swirling around them like water. The music built to a final wail of the fiddle, then cut out, leaving Sam and Frodo tight against each other, still staring into each other's eyes. Frodo raised his eyebrows in silent invitation, and Sam, without a care for who might be watching, swung Frodo up in his arms as if 'Maura' were his bride, and carried him off into the trees to the accompaniment of wild applause from everyone except Rosie Cotton.
Frodo and Sam hadn't gotten all that far before Sam's steps slowed. Frodo wasn't terribly heavy, even with all the weight of the dress and the petticoats, but he heard the sound of moans coming from up ahead. Frodo craned his neck to look, then shook his head ruefully. "It's just Merry and Pippin. Go around to the left, they're in the hollow up ahead."
"Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin?" Sam did as Frodo said, carefully not looking at the source of the moans. "Isn't Mr. Pippin a little, um, young, sir?"
"Merry says Pippin tied him to his bed until Merry agreed," Frodo said cheerfully.
Sam muttered something that sounded like 'more than I ever wanted to know', but carried Frodo onward to another small dell conveniently placed for romantic assignation. (Rumor had it that the Tooks hired an Elven landscaper in to arrange their wood.) There he let Frodo slide from his arms.
He might have panicked. He might have remembered that he and Frodo hadn't exchanged anything more than the occasional yearning glance before this. But it was Overlithe Night, and even Gamgees have reserves of recklessness unsuspected, suitable for not bothering to get completely undressed before kissing their masters feverishly. (Just as a theoretical example.)
"Your dress --"
"I don't care about the dress," Frodo said (entirely too coherently for Sam's liking).
"Well, then, sir," he said, and tumbled Frodo down to the ground, then rolled over so he had Frodo pinned to the soft grass.
Frodo shook his head, breathless and smiling, and pulled him down into another kiss. His hands slid up Sam's front and tackled the job of unbuttoning that Sam had left half-finished. First Sam's shirt, then down to Sam's waist.
Sam freed his mouth with an effort. "Buttons," he said, then more clearly, "Where are your buttons?"
Frodo groaned with frustration. "Down the back," he said impatiently.
"Those are buttons?"
"Pervinca has a maid -- and I had two pervy Tooks and a Brandybuck helping me. Just raise the skirts, Sam!"
Sam did so, though not without privately resolving to have a long talk with the two pervy Tooks and see to it they never sired children if they had been fresh with his Mr. Frodo. All thoughts of revenge were quickly erased when he got the skirts up to Frodo's waist, and realized that under skirt and petticoats, Frodo wore nothing at all. At the same time, Frodo gave a soft cry of triumph as he freed Sam from his trousers.
Now, it's doubtful that either Frodo or Sam (or even the aforementioned pervy Tooks and Brandybuck) had quite realized that things would progress in this direction, this quickly. So Sam found himself facing the eternal question: what to use for lube?
"Spit," said Frodo.
"Won't that hurt?"
"Samwise, if you don't get in there in thirty seconds -- I don't care what you use!"
Spit proved perfectly satisfactory. At least Frodo seemed to think so, and Sam had no objections. Frodo was hot and tight around him, and crying out under him, and Sam lost control in the most delicious way. Afterward, they lay together and murmured all sorts of sweet promises.
"What's that in your pocket?" Frodo asked sleepily. His hands were still exploring Sam.
Sam sat up straight. "Well, bless my soul but I forgot!" He fished out the betrothal necklace. A most un-Gamgee-ish thing, Sam had always thought, like vines of silver studded with star-flowers of pale crystal. But then, this proved a night of un-Gamgee-ish things, and he'd always thought (privately) that it would look far better around Frodo's neck than around Rosie's. "Though it's good you reminded me," he said softly, and offered it.
Frodo took it and looked at it closely. It gleamed in the starlight that filtered through the leaves. "Sam -- Sam, I can't take this."
"It belongs to you more than to Rosie, anyway," Sam said.
Frodo looked up at Sam for a long moment. Then he sat up and kissed Sam again. "Put it on me?"
It took them a moment more to gather themselves together enough to return to the party. Sam didn't want to think what his Gaffer would have to say, but better to break it to Rosie now. Besides, this way maybe the lads would let 'Maura' alone. Even better , the grass hadn't stained Frodo's skirts, although Frodo had rather left the petticoats a little damp. Nothing that wouldn't dry.
The party hadn't stopped in their absence -- of course not. Frodo and Sam coming back passed Bilbo and his dwarf companion going out: Bilbo met Frodo's eyes over the dwarf's shoulder and shrugged, as if to say 'I couldn't help myself!' Frodo rolled his eyes, but couldn't well say anything, given he was wearing Sam's betrothal necklace and a dress besides.
Saradoc and Esmeralda Brandybuck were still on the dance floor, though getting more outrageous. Saradoc had lost his shirt somewhere along the way. Paladin and Eglantine Took weren't far behind, though Eglantine hadn't gotten all Paladin's buttons undone: she kept getting distracted by her husband's wandering hands. And apparently Everard Took had streaked through the dance floor entirely naked. The gossips were hissing, because Pervinca Took had promptly thrown a temper tantrum. Everard had asked some favor from her, it seemed (Frodo grimaced: he suspected he was wearing the favor), and in return had promised to let her see him naked, so Pervinca was of the opinion that he'd shared her favor with everyone, and it wasn't fair.
Lotho returned to the party shortly after Frodo and Sam, very flushed and in a very bad mood. He had no interest in this unknown hussy. But she had somehow gotten the attention of Samwise Gamgee -- beautiful Sam, Sam who would someday tend Lotho's own garden and who knew what more, Sam who wouldn't give Lotho a civil word. When he'd seen them sneak off (all right, not sneak, they hadn't even had the decency to pretend to sneak), he'd followed. He hadn't seen everything. Even hobbits, when attempting to sneak around in dark woods, have to pay attention to where they put their feet. But he'd seen enough. He'd seen them rutting like a pair of -- of -- of shameless Elves. And he'd seen Sam put a betrothal necklace on this 'Maura'. It wasn't fair.
"You're looking a mite sho - sour, lad." Something big and smelling of Paladin's best ale loomed up behind Lotho. "Nothin' a pointy hat trick can't cure!"
"Go away," Lotho said, feeling very sour indeed, and began to stalk off.
"Where are you going?"
"I don't--" Lotho made the mistake of turning around and looking up. It was that wizard, that friend of Bilbo Baggins. Very drunk. Staff held loosely in one hand, so its end nearly touched Lotho's forehead.
Lotho made his second mistake. "Point that somewhere else," he snapped, and pushed the staff away from him.
"There's nothing wrong with it," Gandalf said, drawing himself up.
Lotho missed the air of thunder behind the drunken annoyance. "It's just a stick," he said, making his third and final mistake in succession. "Now go away and leave me alone, you stupid -- conjuror!"
"I am not. Some conjuror." Gandalf lowered the staff again, and this time Lotho couldn't push it away. He could hear the wizard muttering syllables in an unfamiliar language, and pain like he'd never imagined.
His head cleared after a minute, and he blinked up at the wizard. Gandalf stared down at him, looking rather puzzled. "Must have mispronounced nyeni," the wizard was muttering. "'Wen', 'nyeni'...suppose it doesn't matter this once..."
Lotho watched him stumble off, and draw a breath of relief. Whatever the wizard had meant to do, it couldn't have worked. After all, Lotho hadn't been turned into a toad or something, had he?
He looked down at himself and screamed.
"What's wrong, lass?"
He turned around and saw a bulky hobbit -- Ted Sandyman, that was his name, the miller's son from Hobbiton. He had a black eye (from having just tried to kiss Frodo, though Lotho didn't know that -- Sam had punched him in the eye), but Lotho had never seen anyone so beautiful. "That wizard," he said brokenly. "He -- he -- oh, it was terrible!"
"There, there." Ted came closer and patted him on the shoulder. "Nothing I can't help you with, I'm sure."
Lotho looked up at him through newly-long lashes. "Do you mean it?"
And the party went on, though with two fewer participants than before. No, wait, five fewer participants. A new outcry arose from the periphery on the other side of the party. The Gaffer had taken it upon himself to patrol the immediate area for folk up to activities unsuitable for the eyes of the wee ones who'd been allowed to stay up, and found Rosie consoling herself for Sam's desertion with not only Fredegar Bolger but also Folco Boffin. Even worse, by all appearances, Folco was less interested in Rosie's generous curves than in Fatty's even more generous ones.
"Can we go yet?" Sam murmured into Frodo's ear.
"I think Rosie will leave you alone," Frodo agreed. "Come on."
The Overlithe Party always continued until dawn, at which point the hobbits who'd managed to actually stay awake and dancing at last stumbled off to their beds. The sun peeked up on the usual morning-after chaos. Rosie, humiliated but determined, had towed both Fredegar and Folco off to the nearest dell, and fallen asleep satisfied if not happy. Gandalf, unable to persuade any hobbits to let him show them pointy hat tricks, was rescued near cock-crow by three Elves who had materialized out of the woods, and took him away to who-knew-where. Bilbo and his dwarf were snoring , loudly enough to wake up Lotho the next dell over. Lotho was curled up into a tiny ball. On the one hand, he wasn't a lass any more, and he couldn't imagine what he'd seen in Ted Sandyman the night before. On the other hand, he had spent the night seeing something in Ted Sandyman, and now ached in unfamiliar places, and was lying next to him, and what would he tell his mother?
Paladin and Eglantine Took had retreated to their bed, a magnificent wooden creation round as the moon and carved with bawdy scenes, and taken Saradoc and Esmeralda with them. Merry and Pippin were curled up together in Pippin's room, with traces of make-up on the sheets, and red face-paint smeared around both their mouths. And the Gaffer, in search of Sam, stumped up toward Frodo's room to see if the young Baggins knew where his son might be found.
He opened the door to find Frodo and Sam, both quite naked, curled around each other on top of the coverlet. A blue dress lay crumpled on the floor, off to one side, and the pillow tucked under their heads looked a bit worse for cosmetic wear. Around Frodo's neck gleamed silver vines and glittering flowers.
The Gaffer carefully closed the door again, and stumped back downstairs, shaking his head. He'd never be able to explain this one. Never.
Only in Tuckborough. Only on Overlithe Night.