This stand-alone story was written as a birthday tribute for a member of the ‘Lord of the Rings Discipline’ list where I post my fiction.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. I don't own
these characters. This story is not meant to violate the rights held
by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any
Warnings: a touch of slash and a lot of inexcusable mush
Notes: Purists will note a discrepancy in the canonical timeline, but I took a little literary license.
"They’re going to say something."
"They’re not going to say something."
"Merry and Pippin are going to say something, Mister Frodo," I insisted. "And the others should know. It’s not right to keep something like this from them."
I looked off, trying to think of some other way to convince him. "It’s just not good for you to be afraid that the others will find out any minute. It’s not good to keep something like this all bollixed up inside you."
"It’s not ‘bollixed up inside me.’"
I turned to him with my most sincerest of sincere looks. "It’ll help to be honest about it and get it over with." He sighed and gave me his, ‘for goodness sake, Sam, stop worrying’ gaze.
"For goodness sake, Sam, stop worrying."
Now I sighed. We sat there on a soft bed of moss by the stream, our feet dangling over the low bank and into the cool water. The sound of clanging swords came from the camp a little ways behind us, Merry and Pippin sparring with Boromir and Aragorn. Sometimes they laughed. It was nice, hearing that. Hearing Merry and Pippin’s laughter mixed with the deeper laughter of the men, it just felt nice. For some reason, it felt like being home in the Shire.
The sun was setting and its last rays touched the tops of the pines, lighting them up one last time before twilight. Sometimes everything seems near perfect. I was sitting side by side with the person I loved most in the world, and there couldn’t be anything much more perfect than that. There was no space between us, and right after we’d settled down here like this, Frodo had slipped his hand into mine, and now we just sat, me holding his warm little hand and feeling his body pressed to mine.
I looked at him again, and he looked back, and, like usual, I was stupefied by how pretty he was. I fell right into the deep blue of my Frodo’s eyes, mystified by the glittering sparkles of light inside them, the light of everything he was, every special, magical, thing he was, shining out at me.
And sometimes . . . sometimes I wish I could take time and close it into a little box and keep it forever safe. Sometimes I wish I had a way to make all of this stop and go away and leave him in peace, some way to keep him safe, too. I think that’s part of loving someone so much, wanting to lock them away from scary things and hard journeys and big worries.
But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t. All I could do was make things as easy for him as possible on this particular journey, take care of him as best I knew how, and keep him as safe as I could. Part of me sometimes wanted to apologize to him for not being able to do more, but I knew that, if I did that, Frodo would just look at me, like he wondered if I was feeling alright, and then tell me I was doing fine. It was just me who wished I could do more.
"You’re thinking way too much today, my dear Sam," Frodo said with a sweet smile. Then he leaned in and gave me one of those long, soft kisses that makes me light-headed.
We both jumped and spun to look over our shoulders. Legolas stood not but a few feet away, his arms crossed over his chest and a crook of a grin on his lips. How these elves move as quietly as hobbits, I just don’t know.
"Carrying on down here at the water’s edge when it is your turn in the sparring circle. Well, well, well."
Frodo and I grinned and looked at each other, and I reckon my face was just as rosy as his was.
"I should just let you stay here and get in trouble with your instructors," Legolas said. "But, come!"
He reached down and scooped me and Frodo up, one under each arm like a sack o’meal, and started back to camp, carrying us like we weren’t nothin’ more than a couple of spring lambs. How these elves are so strong when they look like young willows, I just don’t know. We were gasping, and Frodo was giggling so much that he made me start in, too, and I could feel Legolas chuckling, his sides shaking. But Frodo’s giggle is like that – it triggers everyone else’s laugh.
We were still laughing and letting fly our fake grousing at Legolas when he lowered us to the ground back at camp. Of course now everyone was smiling, Merry and Pippin breaking at once into outright giggles.
"Did they give you trouble, Master Elf?" Gimli said with a smirk. "Perhaps I should have come with you to lend a hand."
"It seems two hands were all he needed," Boromir remarked, grinning and swinging his sword easy like.
"Aye, little brother," Legolas said. "One for each truant."
"Truant?" I said tugging my clothes back in order. "We were not!" I glanced at Frodo, and, sure enough, my pretended anger was making him giggle again. I went on, saying, "We had important matters to discuss is all, and we needed a little privacy to discuss them."
Of course everyone let loose with an "Oh-hooooo!" and looked around at each other like they KNEW better, and then Pippin, little imp, popped up with, "Important matters? Would these important matters have anything to do with the kind of randy behavior that would make a barmaid from Bree blush?"
Now everyone busted up laughing, even Mister Gandalf, and even me and Frodo, although we’d been trying to act all offended. Now I KNEW my face was as red as his. Aragorn swept Pip up and turned him over and swatted his backside, saying, "That’s enough from you, young Took! Say you’re sorry to Frodo and Sam for embarrassing them or face the soapy consequences."
Aragorn tipped Pippin upside-down and turned him to us, his head hanging by the Ranger’s waist and his feet up over the man’s head. Pippin squealed, and then we were looking at the Took’s startled face, turned over, his arms waving, his little scarf falling over his eyes. It was sight enough to send everyone into more gales of laughter.
Pip shoved the scarf from his eyes and squeaked, "Sorry Frodo! Sorry Sam! Even though I was right, and everyone knows it, I’m still sorry!"
I thought Boromir was going to fall down from laughing. Aragorn up-righted Pip and gave him another swat, saying, "Hardly what I had in mind, but it will do." Then he let him go, and Pippin scurried away to slip behind Merry. But far be it for Pip to not have the last word.
"It may not be what you had in mind," he said, rubbing his bottom. "But look at their red faces! I’m right!"
Aragorn took a step in Pippin’s direction and he squealed again and pulled Merry in front of him like a shield. Of course, this was now all too silly, and Aragorn was chuckling just as much as Boromir, who had come over and was leaning on the Ranger as if needing some support.
"Come, young randy hobbits," Boromir said, "time for serious work"
Aragorn turned to him quickly with raised eyebrows and Boromir backed away from him fast, his arm held out in front of him, crying, "Oh no! Do not dare!"
By now we were almost all laughed out. I looked at Frodo, and saw his beautiful glittering eyes, and his glowing face, and his little crooked teeth, which somehow only made his pretty smile more perfect, and once again I got that longing to hold time still, and to never see my Frodo’s tired, worried look come back again.
Hours later, when the sparring was over, and dinner cooked and eaten, we were curled up together, watching the fire, and I turned to Frodo again and said softly, "I’m sure the situation would be better if the others knew, Mister Frodo. Really. Isn’t it better if you or me tell them, ‘stead of them finding out from Merry or Pippin?"
"Are you back to this, Sam?" He looked at me sadly. "Trust me. If neither of us say anything they won’t know." He followed my glance over to Merry and Pippin who were minding their own business, settling in to sleep. "If they haven’t said anything yet, they’re not going to. They’ve forgotten about it, and we should, too."
"All that proves is that they’re not thinking about it, Mister Frodo," I said. "And I still say it’s best we tell the others and let Aragorn decide what to do."
"That’s the problem, though. I don’t know how Aragorn will respond to something like this."
"And you won’t know until you just up and tell him."
"Be honest with him. He’s as fair-minded as they come. You know that, Mister Frodo."
"I know that. Please, though, enough for tonight."
I sighed and muttered, "If we settle this now, you can tell him first thing in the morning and get it over with."
But Frodo had stopped listening to me. Now it was my turn to follow his gaze, and I followed it right to Legolas. He was watching us with that look he gets when he’s interested in something, but trying to look like he’s not. I turned back to Frodo. He didn’t seem scared, but he seemed a little worried, and I couldn’t figure it out. I quickly glanced between Legolas and Frodo, then said, "He can’t hear us. He’s all the way over there. That’s too far away to hear us."
Frodo just looked at me with wide eyes, and I got the idea that maybe he knew something I didn’t, but then his face relaxed into his easy little smile again, and he said, "I know. Never mind me. I’m just tired. We should get some sleep."
I gathered him to me and guided us both down. Frodo wrapped his arms around me and moved in close, like he always does, while I pulled his cloak up to cover him, then brought our blankets over us both. I ran my fingers through his curls and watched his lids growing heavy over his big eyes, the thick, black lashes fluttering down more and more. I didn’t usually fall asleep before Frodo, even when I was most tired. I liked watching him drop off. And soon he did, and I followed him, thinking that tomorrow I’d try again. Tomorrow wouldn’t be too late to tell them. If I could just convince Frodo to do it.
I watched Sam sleeping, knowing he would shift before long, and then I’d be able to move. When in a soft bed, Sam sometimes wouldn’t move all night, which I thought was amazing. But hard ground is less forgiving. A body has to shift, and Sam always did, eventually. So, I waited, and after about an hour, Sam snuffled, as he usually does, and then turned to his side, away from me. As soon as he began to move I smoothly slid away and shoved the blankets into a Frodo-like roll behind him, piling enough bulk firmly against his back and bottom so that he would feel a pressure there should he wake a bit. Then I slowly slid back further, and sat up.
Legolas stood, his eyes trained upon me as though he’d been waiting for this moment. He probably was. I rose, watching him move my way with his easy, fluid grace, and when he came upon me I turned and fell into step beside him.
Following his lead, I realized that he was heading back down to the stream where he’d found Sam and me earlier that evening. I glanced up at him a few times and finally he turned without a word and scooped me up, settling me to ride on his hip, his hand under my backside.
For some reason neither he nor I could fathom, Legolas had an absolute fondness for this. He was never of a mind to try understanding it, nor did he see any need to apologize for it. In fact, he was completely unconcerned about his habit, and he simply expected me to accept it, because, well, why wouldn’t I? And, rot it all, try as I might, I couldn’t find a reason to object, other than the fact that his attitude about the whole thing was so incredibly smug. But, by now, I’d formed a standard comment about this, and clearly he was waiting to hear it as he looked at me, one eyebrow raised and a smile whispering at the corners of his mouth.
"You’re an impossibly cheeky elf, Legolas."
He grinned. "So you have said."
Moonlight peered down through the feathery pine boughs and glittered on the singing waters of the stream as Legolas took a seat upon a large rock near to where I’d sat with Sam hours earlier. He shifted me around to sit on his lap, again, as if an objection from me was unthinkable. I suppose another hobbit might have protested this somewhat humbling treatment, but this closeness felt good to me. I seemed unable to help it - I simply liked the elf’s casual presumptuousness. I leaned into him, resting my back against his solid arm.
We sat quietly for a while, just listening to the trickling waters and the hushed wind through the pines. One hand laying on my hip, Legolas combed the fingers of his free hand through my curls, much the way Sam liked to, but the elf’s hand was so much bigger, his fingers longer. After a while he leaned down to look into my eyes and I raised up slightly, knowing it was time to talk.
"You heard Sam," I said, both of us knowing it wasn’t a question.
He nodded slowly.
"And now you want to know what it is I don’t want to tell anyone."
"I thought perhaps it might be easier if you just told me, and I can help you tell the others if you like," he said.
I didn’t reply.
He watched me closely for a moment, then he said, "Frodo? Did you hear me?"
"I’m sorry," I said, flinching a little. "I-I was just watching . . . the moonlight, it broke through and was dancing on your hair." Legolas shifted and gave me a slightly stern look, and it suddenly struck me as funny that I’d been so distracted by such a thing. I tried to hold back my grin, but it was no use. "I truly am sorry," I said quickly. But he released a sigh of disapproval and then I immediately found myself trying not to laugh.
"I can tell," he said, sounding not at all amused. "Do I have your attention now?"
"You had it before," I said, suddenly feeling inexplicably cheeky myself. "I was paying close attention to the moonlight on your hair."
Legolas dropped his mock indignation and one of his irresistible grins spread across his face. "Having fun are you, young Baggins?"
"Yes indeed, Master Elf, that I am."
"Hmm," he said, contemplating me with a wry smile. "Aragorn is not the only incorrigible one in this Fellowship."
"True. I think we all are incorrigible in our own ways." Legolas laughed softly, and I added, "All except my Sam."
"Ah, yes, your Sam. He truly is a most noble soul." He grew more thoughtful then, and said, "Sam is right, little one. If something needs telling, it is best you do so, lest others find out about it on their own."
"Oh, no one would find out about this."
"Well, unless Merry remembers, or Pippin, and these days their minds are full of plenty to keep them occupied."
"The date. By Shire reckoning, today was September the 21st."
"Tomorrow is September the 22nd."
"That makes sense." Legolas raised one brow. "And?"
I felt a blush slide up my neck and I dropped my gaze. "Tomorrow is my birthday."
Legolas was so silent I barely heard him breathing, and finally my curiosity got the better of me. I glanced up at him. He was studying me with his exquisite elvish stillness and an air of fond amusement. His eyes positively glittered.
"That is it?" he said.
I nodded. "I never said it was anything bad, Legolas."
He blinked and stared off for a long moment, then turned his gaze back to me and said, "No, indeed you did not."
"And neither did Sam."
Again, he mused this over. "No, he did not either."
"I’m just not terribly eager to have it known, that’s all."
His soft smile returned, along with a look of gentle seriousness. I sensed he was on the edge of laughing, but politely trying to hold it back. "But why not, little one? From what I know of halflings, they relish birthdays."
"Yes, we do. But . . ." I wriggled a bit on his thighs. "Well, birthday spankings are traditional in the Shire."
His eyes widened slightly, and then Legolas did laugh, softly and indulgently and with sudden understanding. I remained impassive, my dignity intact, staring off at nothing while he amused himself. Finally, his chuckles died down and he said, "Forgive me, Frodo. I did not understand."
"Ah. And now, clearly, you do."
"Aye," he said. "You are reluctant to face a birthday spanking after . . . ." He tactfully let his sentence drop off and grinned.
"After Aragorn spanked me for hours and hours last night? You can say it, you know."
"After Aragorn spanked you last night, although I doubt it was for hours and hours."
"It was, too."
He regarded me with a look of affectionate delight. "I never tire of watching you pout, pretty hobbit."
I had no reply.
"You deserved everything Aragorn gave you, Frodo," he said. "And what is more, you know it."
I darted him a sulky glare. "He didn’t have to spank me for hours and hours."
"Nor did he. After what sounded like a fair and sound paddling--"
He cleared his throat. "I accidentally overheard."
I frowned mightily at him, blushing to my ears. "You listened."
"You were very loud, little one. It had been a while, had it not?" I turned my gaze forward again, enjoying my justifiable vexation. He seemed to not notice.
"As I was saying, after he warmed your naughty backside, Aragorn brought you back, and delivered you straight to Sam, who already had the salve in his hand. You have had a whole night and a day to recover. And by tomorrow it will have been nearly two days. Are you not making more of this sore bottom excuse than needs be?"
Suddenly Legolas pulled me close, leaned in, and kissed me, then drew me back again and said with a soft, triumphant smile, "I just had to see what that pout tasted like."
I really could not sustain my pretended irritation after that. And Legolas knew it, treacherous elf. I swear he sensed how my blood surged when he kissed me. With that tiresome elvish hearing, he could, no doubt, detect it racing through my veins. "A pout has a taste?" I asked.
He licked lips. "It tastes like . . . like . . . ai! I have lost it now. Let me try again."
And he did, despite my quickly squeaked, "Wait!" When he let me go this time I said, "I wasn’t pouting anymore!"
"No." He sighed with shameless exaggeration. "Now you just taste like a sweet Ringbearer."
"Oh, well, sorry to disappoint you."
He gave me a gentle squeeze and said, "So, you are reluctant to admit that tomorrow is your birthday for fear that you will have to take a traditional birthday spanking on your still tender bottom. Is that correct?"
I blushed and squirmed. "Yes."
"Am I also correct in assuming that you only take one spanking from one designated source?"
I knit my brow and stared at him. "Legolas, you have an ability to make even a spanking sound elegant." He grinned, and I replied, "Yes. Believe it or not, the ‘designated source’ is usually found by drawing straws. Then that one person gives the spanking."
"And it is, I also assume, a symbolic gesture? You are not, well . . . subjected to a spanking the likes of which you received from Aragorn last night?"
Again I shook my head at him in awe. "Astonishing. Sam would’ve said, ‘You’re not walloped within an inch of your life?’" Legolas laughed softly, and I added, "Yes, it is symbolic. One person, one swat for every year, and it’s over. Last year Merry won the right." I winced in memory. "Poor Pip. Now I know what he goes through when he’s over Merry’s knee. Merry went easy on me, but even then, oh!"
Legolas smiled again, then he grew thoughtful. "This must only go on when you are young hobbits."
"Oh yes! After a certain age, the tradition is excused, of course. But I am nowhere near that age yet."
"Frodo . . . ." He gazed at me in patient confusion. "Is this not worry for nothing? What say you we tell the others, and Aragorn will make plain to Merry and Pippin that they are not to spank you."
"Oh, but it is very rude to break with such a tradition, Legolas. Surely there are customs in your elvish lands that your kinfolk cling to, despite their seeming silliness."
"Elves do not engage in ‘silly’ customs."
I grinned and scoffed.
"So, you were hoping that Merry and Pippin would not think of what day it was tomorrow, and therefore not demand that this hobbit tradition be honored, despite your sore bottom. And you did not want to bring Aragorn into the matter for fear that he would back up your kin."
I turned a startled gaze to him. "No. I was afraid he wouldn’t back them up. I was afraid he would back me up." At his blink of surprise, I said, "Legolas, it is a silly tradition, I know, and I know it sounds ridiculous. Why not simply refuse and there’s an end to it? But . . . you see . . .even though it is a silly little custom, it is a part of home, a part of the Shire."
I dropped my gaze, a painful wash of homesickness flowing over me, tightening a sore knot in my throat. I swallowed and went on, murmuring, "If they forgot, well, that would be alright, you see. If tomorrow comes and goes and they say nothing, well, then I cannot be faulted for breaking a tradition. Sam said . . . Sam said that I should say something, that maybe the fact that I didn’t come forth and tell the others would start to eat away at me. I told him that was nonsense, and that it wouldn’t be hard at all to pretend that I, too, had forgotten the day."
Legolas remained silent, so I rushed on, working the hem of my shirt between my fingers. "Because, as the days grew closer to my birthday, and neither Merry or Pip said anything, no playful teasing or anything, I began to realize that they probably had forgotten, or had just lost track of the days out here on the Quest. We’ve been through so much. Why wouldn’t they have forgotten?
"So last night, after Aragorn spanked me, I thought that, well, this was good then, good that they forgot, I mean, because now it would be easy, you see . . . easy to let the day slip by without worrying about another spanking. And it just felt embarrassing to . . . to go to the others and announce that it was my birthday. I couldn’t do that. And, and . . . ."
I gathered him close. He was valiantly struggling to force out his explanation, but Frodo’s control was close to shattering. "Shhhhhhh, I understand now, little one. Shhhhhh, enough. Tell me no more. I understand," I whispered against his curls.
His small arms wrapped around me and he buried his face against my tunic, a few small whimpers escaping, and then a few more, and then Frodo was weeping ever so softly. I held him and rocked him, letting him release his tears. And I cast back in my mind to what Aragorn had said last night when joining my little brother and me after delivering Frodo to Sam’s waiting arms:
"Is he alright?" I had asked.
Aragorn sat, looking uneasy. He was thoughtful for a moment, watching Gimli stalk off to take the first watch, then he said, "I do not know."
"You do not know?" Boromir asked. He and I exchanged anxious glances.
"He seemed . . . I don’t know." Aragorn leaned over his crossed legs and dug at the dirt before him with a twig. We watched him thinking, then he said, "I think he is holding something back, something I couldn’t reach. And I spanked him all I dared."
"Do you think it is the Ring?" Boromir asked.
"Possibly. I cannot say for certain." His gaze soared over to where Sam was smoothing salve on Frodo’s bottom, Frodo stretched out on his tummy across his servant’s lap. "I sensed . . . something . . . unfinished. But I could do no more for him."
"His behavior has been that of a halfling in need of some attention," I said. "His ill-humor and his impatience--"
"His near-tantrum this morning," Boromir added.
"Aye," Aragorn agreed. "And the bottom-warming I gave him should have been what he needed, but . . . I sensed something else in him still, a sadness I could not reach."
We all three had puzzled over it today, watching Frodo for signs, yet finding nothing we could pinpoint, and so I had resorted to listening in as he and Sam had talked at the water’s edge in the early evening, and then again tonight by the fire, and I knew that Aragorn was not mistaken.
And so, this was the answer, this birthday. I held Frodo tenderly, running my fingers through his hair, murmuring small words of comfort to him, and thinking about how terribly homesick he must be, how even some small and seemingly, as he called it, ‘silly,’ custom meant all the world to him right now. I mused on how much he had hoped, beyond anything even he could imagine, that his kinfolk would remember what day tomorrow was, and that they would torment him for the chance to spank him, showing their love for him and renewing their ever-fragile connection to their beloved Shire.
Small wonder Aragorn could not detect it, although he knew something was not right. Small wonder Sam was so insistent that Frodo say something. How it must be hurting the loyal halfling to watch his cherished master going through such sorrow, and feeling as if he could do nothing to help him short of overriding Frodo’s wishes. I wondered if Sam would have gone ahead and said something tomorrow, regardless of those wishes. For it was certain that Sam knew in his heart what I now knew.
Frodo was not upset about the threat of a spanking tomorrow. He was hiding behind that frail excuse in order to deny his own hurt. It was much easier to bear the pain of a slight, no matter how innocent a slight, if you yourself had made the choice to invite it. Frodo’s bottom would have healed enough by tomorrow to withstand a playful ritual spanking. Nay, that excuse had been too transparent, but I could not call him on it, wounding his pride even further.
"I-I’m sorry, L-Legolas, s-sorry, so-so sorr-ry," he whispered against my chest.
"Hush now, pretty one," I said. "No need for any sorries, Frodo. I will not hear them. Do you understand? None of that now. I am proud of you."
He let go a small sob. "Proud? H-How can you s-say that? P-Proud? Of m-me? For cry-crying over something s-so sil--"
"Ah, ah, ah," I said. "I do not want to hear you call it that. This birthday matter is most important, and it makes perfect sense. I am proud of you for honoring me with your truthfulness."
He leaned back enough to turn his eyes up at me in quiet astonishment. "You d-don’t think it’s si-sil--"
"No. Nor do I want to hear you say that word again." I smiled gently at him and brushed the tears from his face with my thumb. "Frodo, the things that speak to your heart in the loudest voices are the most important things, regardless of how unimportant they may seem in the vast wide world. You carry your world within you. There is nothing more important than that. No other can judge what you hold dear. And they will not."
His huge eyes glistened with shiny lights, and I leaned in and gently kissed him, first his small mouth, then his dewy cheeks, and, when I pulled back to gaze at him again, a different peace lay reflected in his soft gaze. I smiled, knowing now that it was safe to tell him what I had to impart. I had not been certain until this talk ran its course and he opened his heart to me, but now I knew, and now he had released his tears, and now I could finish relieving his pain.
"Frodo, listen to me. When you and Sam were taking your turn sparring tonight, I went into the woods and climbed one of the ancient pines, going high enough to be hidden from view, but not too high to not hear what went on below me."
"You like to sit in the trees, I k-know," he said, sniffling.
"Aye, wood elves are a strange lot," I said with a wink. "Are we not?" He cracked a tiny smile as I had hoped he would, and I went on, saying, "Soon I heard voices below, and your cousins came wandering along, heading down to the stream. They were arguing of course."
Frodo actually grinned. "Of course."
"Would you like to know what they were arguing about?" At Frodo’s quick nod, I began to narrate what I had overheard:
"It’s my turn this year, Merry! You got him last year!"
"Doesn’t matter, Pip. We draw straws like always, and if I win again, I win again, and I get to give Frodo his birthday spanking."
"But that’s not fair!"
"’Course it’s fair. After all, I might not win. You’ve got one chance in three. Sam might win, too, you know."
"If I lose, I’d rather lose to Sam than to you. And I still think you should disqualify yourself since you got Frodo last year."
"Don’t hold your breath on that, little one."
"And I think Sam should disqualify himself, too, because he gets to spank Frodo all the time!"
"And leave you the only one in the running? HA! You’re dreaming, you wee daft Took."
Frodo threw himself at my neck and hugged me fiercely, stopping my narration flat. His giggles resounded in my ear, and I enfolded him to me, listening to the outpouring of his sparkling laughter.
"They remembered!" he exclaimed with the boldness of a child. "Legolas! Oh! They did! They did remember!"
I nuzzled his curls and laughed with him. "Alas, I fear they did, little birthday hobbit."
"And they were fighting over who gets to spank me!"
"Oh, indeed they were! Most vigorously."
I rocked slightly, loving the feel of this cuddly bundle of overflowing happiness in my arms. He held on to me for some time, making small sounds of contentment in his throat, and I felt what I always feel when holding Frodo, a strange and extraordinary warmth flowing from his small body into mine, enriching me on some level I could not describe.
Before long he yawned and laid his head on my shoulder. I felt his moist breath on my neck, his small fingers playing with my hair. His body began to relax, and I knew I needed to take him back and tuck him in beside his loving Sam, but I could scarcely bear to move away from this place and give up this moment. I glanced up, taking in the position of the stars, reading the time in the night sky, then I smiled.
"Frodo," I murmured in his ear.
"Look up, little one. Lean back and look up at the sky."
It took him a moment to comply, and when he did, he was sluggish. But he obediently looked up. I watched him, a hundred glints of starlight reflecting in his wide eyes.
"’Tis just past midnight," I said. "Happy Birthday, sweet Frodo."
He dropped his gaze to me, his youthful face glorious in its serene beauty, his tender smile reaching in to caress my heart. "Oh, Legolas," he said, his voice hushed. "Thank you." A single tear slipped down his cheek. "Thank you, so much, for everything."
I kissed him again, then watched him blush, smiling at the perfection of it, then I said, "Wrap your legs around me, sweetling. I must take you back before your Sam wakes in a panic and finds you gone." He smiled again and wriggled around, obeying my order. "Besides, you need your rest. Your cousins are planning an attack on your poor bottom tomorrow."
Frodo laughed gently as I stood, cupping my hands beneath his rounded backside. With his legs snuggly wrapped around my waist, and his head resting once more on my shoulder, I headed back to camp with a birthday hobbit who had a big day ahead.