Many thanks to Hanarobi for beta duties (again!). NC-17 for hobbit-wanking and F/A slash.

Combe: Year Seven
by Laura Mason

"Estel. How nice to see you." Doc started to rise, but Aragorn waved him back in his seat. Despite the hot summer day, Doc was bundled in a shawl and bright comforter, settled in the big, comfortable rocker that used to sit in the parlor. Evidently Frodo had decided Doc should be in the kitchen, where he could be with the hobbit and enjoy the bright sunshine in their small yard, rather than sitting alone in the dim formal room.

Aragorn shook the hand Doc held out to him and smiled. "It is a great pleasure to see you. How have you been feeling?"

Doc merely shook his head before continuing, "Frodo will be so glad you've come for a visit. He's left on his own too much. I sleep a good deal of the time. Can't even manage to stay awake for a good tale, though Frodo's always reading to me from his books."

Aragorn could see the change in Doc since his last visit, only four months ago. He doubted Frodo would have noticed, though; few observed a decline in one they saw every day. "Frodo's books? Ah, the ones you purchased for him from his relatives?"

"Yes, the ones his cousin Bilbo intended him to have. We finally managed to get them all back, it seems, though it means Frodo hasn't saved many wages in all these years. But he's never cared much about practical things like money." Doc's laugh made Aragorn smile.

"Neither do you, my friend." Doc snorted but didn't deny it. Aragorn found the tea pot, wrapped in a thick towel on the table. The brew inside was still warm, but Aragorn set a fresh kettle of water over the fire before refilling Doc's mug. Then he opened the cupboard, rummaging for another cup. "Shall we have some seed cake, Doc? This looks freshly baked."

"No, no. Good heavens, you sound like a hobbit, Estel. Help yourself if you're hungry, but decent folk have had their lunch by this hour, you know." Aragorn grinned at him before cutting a generous slice of the cake. Frodo's baking had certainly improved over the years, and he'd walked a long way this day.

"So where is Frodo? Surely it's too late for him to be marketing."

"I made him go for a walk. Can't be hovering here all day, every day. Not healthy." Doc looked like he was falling asleep already, his tea untouched. Aragorn sat with him for a few minutes, sipping his own tea and eating the cake in a few large bites. When he rose, Doc started a bit.

"I'll go find Frodo to say hello. We'll be back soon."

"Fine, fine," came the drowsy mutter, and before Aragorn closed the door Doc's head was tipped back, just avoiding the sunlight pouring through the south window.

Frodo had some favorite walks they'd shared in the past. Aragorn looked around, wondering if today he'd be in the fields to the west, enjoying the bright sunshine, or if Frodo would seek the coolness under the woods to the south. No, neither seemed correct. Then he remembered -- Frodo's swimming hole, which he'd only seen in the winter. That's where his hobbit, raised beside the Brandywine, would be on a bright, hot afternoon.

Aragorn headed down the path that led away from Combe to the southwest, remembering the day many years ago that he'd showed Frodo this route to shorten the road on his visits to the Shire. It was a path all the Rangers used, and one he'd traveled many times. Yet he'd never gone exploring, as Frodo had, looking for pleasant spots to read or picnic. The day Frodo showed him the pond, the hobbit had laughed over his surprise.

Sometimes Aragorn felt as if he'd never done such carefree, enjoyable things. His childhood was many years in the past, and he wondered if he'd forgotten the thrill of being adventurous. But no, his childhood was spent with Ellrohir and Elladan, who knew all the byways of Rivendell. There were no secret places he could call his own, not with ever-watchful elves surrounding him. And even as a boy, he'd known his destiny and felt the weight of responsibility.

And now, he was one of those whose vigiliance protected these lands so innocent hobbits could wander on happy adventures. That should be satisfaction enough. His heritage and his duty called for serving Middle Earth and its people, not for enjoying himself.

But Frodo always shared his joy in the woodlands of Bree with his Estel, rekindling the man's excitement and happiness. Frodo made him feel much younger, almost carefree. So as he reached the familiar trees marking the turnoff, he slowed and crept forward carefully, intending to playfully surprise Frodo.

He stopped for a moment at the thought that Frodo might not be alone, but he shook his head and continued, certain the hobbit was by himself. Frodo had casual friends in Staddle and Combe, but he was largely solitary.

When Aragorn heard splashing ahead he smiled, and for one mad moment he considered removing his own clothes and joining Frodo in the cool water. It was an attractive thought, but not something he could actually do. Leave his sword on shore without others there to guard it? Never.

There, ahead was the clearing and the water was sparkling under the afternoon sunshine. Frodo was swimming for the eastern shore and the patch of sunny grass there. The pond was still and quiet -- he was alone, just as Aragorn had expected. But he didn't join Frodo, or call to him. He stayed among the trees, watching as Frodo found his feet and walked out of the shallow water.

He was thoroughly soaked, his curls momentarily hanging straight. The water running down his flesh caught the sun and glistened, and Aragorn caught his breath at how beautiful Frodo looked. Pale, slender, unselfconscious and smiling, Frodo shook himself, then laughed. He moved to a sunny patch of grass and stretched out, laying on his back with his eyes closed against the sun, one knee bent and one arm flung over his head.

Aragorn moved then, but not out into the open. No, he crept closer to Frodo, staying behind the trees in the deep shadows, every step taken with the utmost caution. When he stopped, closer to where Frodo lay, he almost gasped. Frodo's hands were moving on his wet body, traveling down the smooth chest, pausing to circle an erect nipple. Frodo's smile was gone, replaced with a heat and need that almost looked like pain twisting his face.

And now Aragorn knew he must leave, and give Frodo privacy, but he couldn't stop staring as the hobbit's hands moved lower, caressing his abdomen. His left hand moved up, back to his nipple, as the right dipped lower, grasping his half-erect flesh. And then Frodo began to move, to undulate, his body displayed wantonly, back arching, legs sprawled apart. Now sounds floated to Aragorn's hot ears, soft grunts and long, wanton moans. His own flesh hardened in response, caught uncomfortably in tight fabric.

He didn't realize his hand had moved to rub at the discomfort until a breathy gasp from Frodo made every inch of him throb with desire. Then he pulled his hand away, as if he'd burned it. But it was too late, his body was alive, singing with longing as Frodo's hand sped and his body shook, pearly drops falling as he called "Estel!"

Aragorn sank to the ground as his own body convulsed and spilled, his breath coming in the same harsh gasps he could hear from Frodo.

He stayed there, pressed against the cool earth, even after Frodo swam back to where he'd left his clothing, donned it and headed back to Combe. Aragorn lay, heedless of the time passing, body sated but his mind unsettled.

The sun was low behind the trees when he finally rose, cleaned himself, and headed back to Doc's cottage. Frodo's ecstatic smile and friendly hug were the same as ever. His voice was cheerful as he scolded Estel for seeking him in the fields and forgetting about his swimming pond. Frodo didn't seem to notice that Aragorn wouldn't meet his eyes.

Doc, on the other hand, watched them with deep sadness in his eyes. Aragorn had seen that sorrow before, yet another thing he could no longer deny. He'd lied to himself for too long, rationalizing that his frequent visits took place merely to gather information for Gandalf and ignoring Doc's disapproval. Pretending he didn't know that Frodo was in love with him.

He had no way to apologize and no way to make it right. His heart was pledged to Arwen, yet his body lusted after Frodo. And perhaps there was more than lust in his feelings for Frodo. Yet this evening Aragorn was not even capable of being a good friend to Frodo and Doc, despite both of them making him feel so welcome.

The only recompense he could give was to vow never to so deceive himself again, and then to smile, eat, drink, and try to behave normally. Aragorn put on a smile and did his best, glad to see Frodo glow with happiness in response -- and Doc relax and smile. He stayed for supper, then left after claiming Ranger business required his return.

As he walked under the stars, seeking a place to camp for the night, he thought of his Evenstar, her bright beauty far above him -- out of reach at the present, and perhaps forever. Frodo was like a precious bloom along the road, beautiful in a different, earthy way. He could touch him, possess him -- but wouldn't that damage the blossom? No, better to leave Frodo in the soil that nurtured him and admire him from afar, as he'd been doing for so long now.

Aragorn wrapped himself in his cloak and settled on the ground for the night, and when he closed his eyes he saw Frodo. He remembered the drops of water on his brow as his face contorted in bliss, and how that pale body glowed in the sunshine. Aragorn knew the image would remain with him -- and he knew, as he pulled open his leggings and impatiently put a hand on himself, that his body would always respond just as strongly to the memories.

 

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