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A Gleaming Pearl
Tolkien Fanfiction

Disclaimer:  I did not create any of these characters and make no money from writing about them...they are all Tolkien's work.  I just enjoy making up stories about them, as I've not gotten enough Lord of the Rings!
Warning: Graphic sex (though not "skanky"...no worse than your typical romance novel)
Author's note:  It seems to be rare to find heterosexual fanfics about any of the characters of Lord of the Rings...all of the juicy stuff tends to be slash.  I've decided to break that barrier and be original with Frodo, whom I love!  Pearl Took is an unexplored character in the series who I thought would prove to be an interesting challenge to write about, and she's around Frodo's age.

Part One

He shouldn't have come. He thought it would be good for him to take a vacation away from Bag End, relieving Sam and Rose of the burden of his pain for a little while. He wanted them to have the privacy they deserved, without his interference. Frodo did not try to get between them, of course, but he knew that Sam's attention was split between concern for him and love for his new wife. It was Meriadoc who provided the answer one day on a visit to Hobbiton. As always, Frodos shrewd cousin had easily guessed that something more than old wounds and nightmares was troubling Frodo. The former Ringbearer finally confessed his dilemma when Merry pressed him. "Well then, my fine hobbit, you should come to Buckland for a holiday! We can catch up on old times, have a good smoke and good songs!" Frodo had been hesitant at first, but then he saw Sam and Rose embracing in the kitchen, and his cheeks flamed. Yes, he needed to get away. He felt like an intruder in his own home!

So, here he was, brooding by the waters of Bucklebury Ferry. His large, sapphire eyes stared at the book in his slender hands without truly seeing it. He wondered if Merry and Pippin missed him; he had awoke early and left Brandy Hall before the rest of them arose. His shoulder had been throbbing of late, and the cold ache from the old wound kept him from getting a proper nights rest. Again, he thought he shouldn't have come here. He was only dragging his troubles from his friends at Bag End to lay them on the shoulders of his cousins here. It was hardly a fair trade, in his mind.

He stared at the water, slightly dazzled for a moment by the sunlights sparkle on the surface. A swim! Perhaps that was what he needed to clear his head and ease the stiffness beneath the stab-wound from the Morgul blade. Frodo hesitated, glancing around. He purposely chose this spot on the river Brandywine, for it was quite a ways to the nearest crossing, and fairly private. He almost laughed at his own hesitation. This was Buckland - the hobbits here might raise eyebrows at him leaping in for a swim, but it wasn't like most of them hadn't done it themselves! Feeling a bit better knowing he wouldnt have to deal with the shock that Hobbiton halflings would have felt, he set his book down and began to strip his clothing off. He left his underpants on, of course. The last thing he wanted was for a Bucklander to come by and get an eyeful.

Once he had undressed down to his skivvies, he eyed the water a bit nervously. "Perhaps I ought'nt do this," He said aloud. The thumb of his right hand absently stroked the stump where his third finger used to be, a habit he had formed recently when something troubled him. What if he entered the water and suddenly lost his will? He had been living in pain every day since the Nazgul stabbed him. It might be too easy to end his own suffering. Frodo considered his own emotions, wondering what the chances were of him willingly following his parents to a watery grave. "Stop being so foolish, Frodo Baggins! Don't let that mood come over you again!" He chastised himself. Feeling more confident, he waded into the calm river. There was barely even a current today, and the hobbit sighed and swam over to a boulder which was sticking up out of the water. Resting against it, he closed his eyes and let the water sooth his taut shoulders.

After a while, Frodo decided to turn over in the water and float on his back. The gentle current began to carry him downstream, but the hobbit didn't care. His eyes watered from the glare of the sun, and he closed them and listened to the oddly muffled world around him. He almost dozed (which would have been a dangerous thing indeed!), but there was suddenly a great splash just a few feet to the left of him. He jerked in surprise and accidentally went under for a moment. When he came back up, he was coughing and sputtering, rubbing the water out of his eyes and brushing his soaked, dark curls away from his face. He didn't see anything, but a pair of small, rounded arms abruptly encircled him from behind. He gasped in confusion as a high-pitched, female voice said in his ear, "Don't worry, Mr. Frodo! I've got you! I'll get you safely to the shore!"

Pearl Took, he realized. He opened his mouth to tell her he was in no danger of drowning, but her tugging arms actually hindered him more than helped him. He found himself swallowing water as she inadvertently pulled him under in her attempts to rescue him. Finally, his Elf-like litheness paid off and he twisted nimbly around to grab her wrists. "Pearl, lass! I'm fine. Please, do stop this before you truly drown me!"

Bewildered green eyes, almost cat-like gazed at him from beneath wet ringlets of honey-colored hair. She looked doubtful. "Are you certain, Master Baggins? I was taking my morning walk when I saw you come floating by, looking unconscious! You are coughing an awful lot, too!"

Frodo resisted the urge to laugh at her misguided, but endearing attempts to save his life. "I'm certain. Thank you kindly for the thought, Pearl." As it was a grin still formed on his lips, and she shook her head.

"Oh, that's just dandy! I threw my dress on the ground back there, and now its probably covered in mud and ruined! Stupidity really does run in my family!" Frodo was a bit taken aback by the self-anger in her voice. He rested a kindly hand on her shoulder, then nearly snatched it back when he realized she was wearing as little as he was! He swallowed and blushed scarlet, wondering if Pearl even cared that she was wading in the river with nothing but her underblouse and panties to cover her.

Not wanting to draw attention to the fact and embarrass the lass, Frodo murmured, "There, there. You aren't stupid, my dear. Impulsive perhaps, but I'd never call you or any of your family dumb." She stared back at him, grinning.

"Do you mean that, or are you simply trying to spare my feelings?"

Frodo chuckled. "Pearl, you forget that it was your own brother who had a hand in ending the War of the Ring. It was often Pippin's impulsiveness that helped us through." She smiled, and Frodo observed that she truly was a lovely lass, with her heart-shaped face and impish green eyes. He shook his head. "Old boy," He thought, "You're getting worked up over her lack of garments...get your head out of the clouds!" He winced as his movement caused his shoulder to throb, and Pearl noticed it and frowned.

"It's bothering you again, isn't it?" She said softly, and her fingertips stroked the pale scar with whisper-soft gentleness. Frodo shivered and stared at her with shadowed blue eyes. Pearl bit her lip and wondered if Mr. Frodo was ever going to consider a wife. Perhaps that was all he really needed? She caught herself giggling; she had never wanted a husband, so why was she entertaining such thoughts every time she saw Frodo? "It's because he's so bloody beautiful, I suppose," She thought to herself. Yes, that and something more. It wasn't just his physical beauty. There was wisdom about him, and it only added to his Elvish appearance. He was also so tragic and vulnerable! She suddenly understood why Samwise was so protective of his Master. She wanted to protect Frodo, too! He was shivering, whether from her fingers gently stroking the puckered scar tissue or the cold of the water, she could not tell.

"Come on...let's get closer to the bank, and I'll see if I can ease your tension." She said. Those gorgeous eyes widened, and the effect was slightly startling. She found herself staring at the sparkling dew that clung to his long lashes, and without even thinking about it, she reached her hand up from his shoulder to cup his chin. "No arguing, Frodo Baggins! I hate to see a cousin in pain. Let us go now." He mutely followed as she turned and began to stroke her way back to the shoreline. She didnt see the dismayed look on his face.

"What am I thinking, having these odd feelings for Pearl?" He wondered to himself as he followed. Not only was the lass one of his many cousins, but he also knew absolutely nothing of the art of courting. He smirked ruefully as he watched the smooth play of muscles beneath her small shoulders as she swam. For all his book knowledge, he was daft in the ways of romance. Once they reached a more shallow part where they could put their feet down, Pearl motioned for Frodo to turn his back to her.

"You just let Pearl ease those cramped shoulders, Mr. Frodo," She said as he reluctantly obeyed.

"Pearl, I do wish you wouldn't call me Mr. Frodo. It sounds so formal, and it's bad enough coming out of Samwise's mouth." He sighed despite himself as her small, strong hands began to stroke and knead his shoulders and neck, concentrating more on the side with the stab wound.

"Oh, pooh. We only call you that because we respect and admire you, Frodo. At least, here in Buckland we do. You're a legend around here, you know." He shivered as her breath whispered across his pointed ear. She noticed and giggled. "Am I giving you the chills?" She questioned, then purposely blew in his right ear. He gasped, and goosebumps formed on his smooth, ivory skin.

"Please, Pearl...that makes me feel odd," He said, with a strange catch in his throat. She grinned, quite certain just how it was making him feel. Frodo had the most interesting blush pattern...when he pinkened, it spread across his high cheekbones and to the tips of his ears, and she saw how flushed he was. From what Pippin and Merry told her, Frodo was innocent in the ways of love. Poor thing, he probably didn't even understand what desire was!

On that note, Pearl decided to be kind. Her natural tendencies to tease would have to be brought to reign, if she was going to give him any relief. She felt her own face flush slightly as her hands began to take note of the sinewy chords of muscle that slowly relax from her ministrations. His skin was as soft as hers...strange for a male. She inhaled the scent of his damp hair. He smelled like rain, with a slight hint of sandalwood. Her fingers kneaded the flesh of his neck, just around the base of his skull and his jawbone, and his head lolled. A strong urge to replace her fingers with her lips came over her, and her typical Took-like response was to listen to those urges before thinking. Frodo's eyes flew open and he froze in shock when he felt soft, feminine lips brush against his neck. He flushed as he felt himself spring to hardness.

Pearl smiled against his neck, noting his response and correctly guessing the cause of it. "Pearl...what are you doing?" Frodo said breathlessly. She pressed against him, and he bit back a groan as her soft curves met his back.

"Relax, Master Baggins. I told you I was going to take care of you, and I meant it!" Her voice sounded different...it was husky and almost purring.

Oh dear...what was he to do? He was certain it was wrong to let this go on, but at the same time, when she began to brush her mouth against his neck, he forgot all about his pain. Her fingertips pulled aside his wet curls, baring more of his neck for her lips to caress, and he bit his lips as warm tingles spread through his body. He jerked slightly as her hands slid down his shoulders and arms in a soft glide. Pippin was going to kill him. In fact; the whole Took family would probably string him up if they saw this! Picturing his younger cousin's shocked face, Frodo managed to pull himself out of the swoon Pearl's lips were causing, and he turned around to face her. "Pearl, we oughtn't bemmmffpht!"

Her mouth claimed his and muffled his protest. Oh, this really wasn't fair! Of their own accord, his hands cupped her face, fingers tracing the soft contours, and his lips parted. She eagerly pushed her tongue in and stroked the inside of his mouth with it. He made a soft sound against her lips and splayed one hand on the small of her back, pushing her body more tightly against his. Pearl purred deep in her throat as his erection pressed into her lower belly. She managed to control herself and not grasp his hardness in her hand, though it wasn't an easy urge to ignore. Gasping, Frodo broke the kiss and tried to hold her at arms length. "Pearl, I can't sully you like this," He said. His voice was quivering, and she looked up and saw that his gem-bright eyes had unshed tears in them.

She bit her lip and covered his right hand with one of her own, her fingers tenderly stroking the stump of his missing digit. "You won't sully me, Frodo. You keep forgetting that I'm only 7 years your junior. I reckon I've had more experience with these things than you have...am I right?" She reached up with her other hand and traced his sensitive, kiss-swollen mouth with her fingertips. He closed his eyes and impulsively brushed his lips back and forth across her fingers. Then he shook himself and gave her a stern glare.

"I can't do this, Pearl. I'm...I'm unclean. I wouldn't want any of the darkness inside of me to reach you." The tears he was trying to hold had begun to spill over, and her heart nearly broke with pity for him.

"Why are you punishing yourself?" She asked, her voice raising in anger. "Why can't you accept comfort from the hobbits who love you? First you run away from Sam, and now you're running away from me!"

He recoiled as if slapped, the color draining from his cheeks. "That is not true," He whispered. He was trembling in earnest now, fighting an eruption of emotion.

Pearl regretted her harsh words, and she pulled him to her and held him tightly. "I'm sorry, dear Frodo! Don't look like that! I just don't understand why you won't accept help."

He didn't move. He didn't pull away, nor did he return her embrace. "So, you did all of that out of pity?" He said in a thin voice.

Shocked that he would think himself so disgusting that a woman would only bed him for that reason, Pearl pulled back and gripped his jaw firmly, staring into those big, heartbroken eyes intensely. "Frodo Baggins, you can be so dense! Have you ever seen yourself? Do you know how many hobbit lasses have pined over you? Even some hobbit lads have! The only reason nobody's ever approached you before is because...well...you're so different, and you've never shown interest in either women or men. I took a big chance kissing you, because I didn't know if you wanted the attention. You're a hard one to read in that way, my lad."

He blushed prettily and looked down. "I had no idea," He said in a subdued voice. The water gently rocked them as they stood there for long moments. Pearl seemed to be trying to get control of her emotions, and Frodo cursed himself for hurting her. His gaze kept straying to her cleavage, where the white material of her underblouse clung to her body. He could see the plump roundness of her breasts quite clearly, and he stared in fascination at the dark nipples straining against the cotton.

He blushed straight to his toes when Pearl took his hands in hers and guided them to the twin mounds. "Don't be afraid, Frodo. You can touch me." The lapis fire of his gaze briefly met her eyes, questioning, and when she smiled, they looked back down at the softness in his hands. She sighed and arched her back, pressing her breasts into his cupping hands. He fondled her gently, almost reverently, and she bit back a giggle. His touch was so light and hesitant that it tickled. She decided to break the ice with a kiss. At first, his lips were slack against hers, and then he shuddered and returned the kiss hungrily.

Pearl gasped at Frodos unexpected intensity. His fingers gently tweaked her nipples and he bucked his hips against her, pressing his hardness firmly against her. His lips and tongue were searing and demanding, and before she knew quite what she was doing, she put her arms around his neck and pulled herself up, wrapping her legs around his slim hips. He groaned against her mouth and slid his hands down her body to cup her bottom and stroke her thighs. "Pearl," He gasped, his tone half-warning and half-desperate. She slid a hand between their pressed bodies and stroked his chest and belly, purring as his muscles tensed beneath her palm.

She opened her eyes and pulled back, staring at his face as her hand reached between his legs and stoked the hardness there. His sapphire eyes went blank and his lips parted. She grinned in spite of herself. "You're quite well-endowed, Master Baggins," She murmured, kissing his slack mouth. Then she slipped her hand beneath the waistline of his underwear and gripped him. He gasped, and she thoughtfully slid her body off of his, realizing his knees were probably going weak. "Just relax, pretty gentlehobbit," She whispered as his fingers dug into her hips and he groaned. He rested his forehead against her shoulder and she used her free hand to stroke his damp hair soothingly while her other hand messaged his penis.

It was then that Pearl realized just how innocent Frodo really was. "Unh...Pearl...nobody has ever touched me there before," He quavered.

She kissed his brow. "Nobody? Have you ever done this to yourself?"

He blushed, but nodded. "I...meant that...nobody else...oh!" Her other hand had drifted down and began to softly knead his scrotum. She gently squeezed the heart-shaped tip of his erection, and he hissed and kissed her deeply. Frodo began to undulate his hips instinctively, his breath quickening and hitching with the pleasure of her ministrations. It certainly wasn't like doing it himself. It seemed like his loins were more sensitive to her touch than his own. She murmured soothingly to him as his body began to grow more taut against her. "Pearl...oh, Pearl...I don't think I can..." He tilted his head back, and she kissed his throat. He cried out, and she smiled when his organ bucked in her hand.

"It's alright," She soothed as he hugged her to him. He gave a soft sob and buried his face in the drying ringlets of her hair. "There now, my sweet Frodo," She whispered, feeling a surge of love and protectiveness as he trembled against her. "Surely it wasn't that bad that you should cry?" She teased, kissing his neck.

He laughed breathlessly and pulled back, wiping his eyes with his fingers. "Forgive me...it was just such a release." He said softly, lowering his eyes bashfully. It was true...when he ejaculated, it was almost as though some of the hated darkness inside of him had been expulsed. He knew that wasn't logical, but he didn't care.

She smiled and brushed some half-dried, unruly locks of dark hair out of his gorgeous eyes. "Come now...let's get our clothing and get you back to Brandy Hall, before Merry and Pippin send out a search party." Frodo blushed hotly, and she kissed the tip of his nose. "Dont worry! Even if they suspect something, it's none of their business! I can make up something if it makes you so uncomfortable. Besides, I'm not finished with you, my lovely gentlehobbit." Her eyes gleamed wickedly as she gave his bottom a squeeze.

Part Two
 

Pippin was cooking mushrooms when Frodo and Pearl entered Brandy Hall. "Ah, there you are! Where have the two of you been?" questioned the youngest Took. Frodo quickly crossed the kitchen and reached for his pipe, which he had left on the counter the night before.

"I took a swim," Frodo said hastily as he began stuffing the bowl with pipeweed from his pouch. He avoided turning around; afraid that his youngest cousin would see how furiously he was blushing.

"You're wet too, Pearl, and your dress is dirty!" Pippin exclaimed. With a sly grin, he finished, "Did Frodo drag you in?"

Pearl grinned as Frodo coughed on his first drag from the pipe. "Of course not, Pip! It was the most amazing thing, really. I decided to take a swim myself, and who should I run into but Mr. Frodo! He was trying to ease his cramped shoulder, poor dear." Her eyes went soft as she looked at the former Ringbearer, and he hid his shy grin and focused on the smell of cooking mushrooms.

Peregrin winced in sympathy and gave Frodo an understanding nod. "I hate to think of that dreadful wound causing you pain, cousin. Mayhap Pearl can give you one of her wonderful massages after elevenses? She's quite good!" He frowned when Frodo bit down hard on his pipestem and hedged his brows together. "Whatever's the matter, Frodo?" Pearl was biting her lips to keep from laughing out loud, but Pippin had his back turned to her and couldn't see it.

Frodo coughed and said, "Oh, naught is wrong. I thought I heard a strange noise, is all. Where's Merry?"

Pippin's expression became impish. "Oh, he'll be along, never you mind that. He's bringing a surprise for you. Might clear up that full head of yours and make you smile again." The young Took frowned, and Frodo again felt that he was unfairly putting his own burdens on his cousins.

"A surprise? What sort?" Said Frodo, trying to keep Pippin's mind off of his suffering.

"Now, now cousin. You know it won't be a surprise if I tell you!" Pippin shook his spoon at Frodo with a laugh.

Frodo sighed. "Alright, keep your secrets. Let me help you prepare elevenses."

The look of horror that crossed the young Tooks face wasn't feigned in the least. "Oh, no...You...you're a guest here, Frodo! You go out into the lounge. Smoke your pipe, read your book, and relax!"

Frodo burst into spontaneous laughter at Pippin's attempt to cover distress with hospitality. "In other words, you do not want me to burn the food, is that it? Come on, Pip. I know I'm a horrid cook. If it weren't for Sam, I should have starved long ago." He swallowed a sudden lump that formed in his throat at the thought of his dear friend back home in Bag End.

Pearl crossed the room and patted Frodo's arm gently. "That's neither here nor there, Master Baggins. My brother is right; you're a guest here, and you should let us pamper you a bit." She winked at him, making the slight distress he was feeling vanish.

"Oh, very well," He said, and allowed her to lead him into the lounge, where she all but pushed him into one of the plush, comfortable chairs beside the fireplace. With a furtive glance towards the kitchen to make sure Pippin wasn't watching, she planted a quick kiss on his lips.

"You just relax, Frodo," She whispered, then she went back into the kitchen to help Pippin make the meal.

~*~

Merry arrived just as the elevenses meal was cooked, and his arms were laden with bottles and mugs. Frodo quickly stood up and relieved his host of some of the bottles before they dropped. "What's all this?" Questioned Frodo.

Merry smiled. "Brandy and Dwarven Ale!"

"Dwarven Ale? Why, wherever did you manage to find this here?!" Questioned Frodo in bewilderment.

The Brandybuck winked. "Well, that's the biggest surprise. A pair of old friends have come to visit. They wanted to check in on you!"

Frodo gasped in amazement as a stout shadow filled the doorway. Taller than a hobbit, yet shorter than a man, the figure's face could hardly be seen through the thick, braided auburn beard and mustache that covered it. "How be you, Master Baggins?" The dwarf said with a twinkle in his brown eyes.

"Gimli! Elbereth, I cannot believe my eyes!" Cried the hobbit, practically dropping the bottles he had taken from Merry. He had the sense to set the liquor down carefully before rushing forward to hug the stout dwarf.

Gimli laughed merrily and patted Frodo's back. "You're looking much better than I had hoped, young Frodo!" The dwarf said in his gravely voice.

Frodo barely had time to compose himself before another figure entered the hole. This one was tall and slim, and had to duck down quite a bit to get through the doorway. Sunlight glinted on long, golden hair, and deep blue eyes that shone like stars regarded the halfling gravely. "Legolas as well?! This is a happy day!" Exclaimed Frodo as the elf took Gimli's place in a warm embrace.

"It is a joy to see you, Frodo." Legolas said in his beautiful, musical voice. Hearing the tender concern in the elf's tone, Frodo burst into tears, much to his embarrassment. Legolas stroked his small frame soothingly, whispering, "There, there. You're among friends now."

"I'm sorry," Frodo said huskily. "It seems that all I do lately is cry and sleep. Oh, to be merry and carefree as a Hobbit should!" Legolas pulled his small friend into his lap and rocked him gently.

"Do not regret your tears, dear Frodo. I should be worried sick if you didn't weep often. It is a sign of healing, and it means you are letting the pain have an outlet. My friend, you are a rarity among your kind, this is true, but I doubt anyone, hobbit or otherwise, could go through the things you did and come out of it fine!" The others looked on with sad expressions, and it seemed they all nodded in agreement. Legolas carefully lifted Frodo and sat himself on the couch (for the chairs were too small for his tall frame). He held the hobbit in his lap and stroked his soft curls as he wept.

"I know this is going to sound mad, but doesn't it almost look like a father comforting his son?" Whispered Pearl to her brother. Pippin nodded. Coloring notwithstanding, Frodo looked so much akin to an elf that if Pippin were a stranger and walked in, he would think Legolas was cradling an elf child.

"I knew being near Legolas would do the lad some good," Muttered Gimli. "The elves seem to have a healing effect on Frodo...just as they do on Bilbo. Strange pair of Hobbits, those two are."

"Was the journey hard?" Questioned Pippin as he began to gather up the assorted bottles and jugs.

Gimli snorted. "It would have been a might easier if those Hobbits at the border hadn't been so suspicious of us! I practically had to spout off Master Brandybuck's family lineage to convince them we meant not harm. Not an easy thing to do, with how confusing you halflings family lines are to me!"

Merry laughed and clapped the dwarf on the back. "You probably frightened them, good dwarf! Seriously, we've recently had an incident here in the Shire, concerning big folk. We took care of the problem, but we've had to become a bit more careful when tall folk pass through our lands."

Gimli grimaced. "We heard news of that, and I'm sorry for your troubles here. If we had known sooner, we would have come to help."

"Of course, you would have, and you'd have probably driven them out all by yourself and left us with no fun!" Merry said with a hoot. Gimli grinned and glanced meaningfully at the jugs that Pippin was carrying to the kitchen. "Oh, right! Let's all have a drink to our friends and sit down for elevenses!"

Frodo had finally composed himself...in fact, he dozed off in Legolas's arms, and the elf had to gently shake him awake. "Frodo? Shall we eat?" Questioned the prince of Mirkwood. The hobbit yawned, then realized he had fallen asleep in his friend's lap, and a flush of pink spread across his cheekbones, making Legolas grin.

~*~

They ate heartily and shared stories of what they had been doing during the time they hadnt seen each other, and when the meal was finished, everyone returned to the lounge. "I say we see how much of this fine ale we can polish off!" Cried Pippin.

"Here, here!" Bellowed Gimli. Chuckling, Merry poured each of them a pint-sized mug of ale (Pippin had demanded they buy some from the Prancing Pony in Bree, deciding he preferred his ale in pints rather than half-pints from now on), and they raised their drinks in salute.

"To old friends and getting shnockered!" Said Merry.

Legolas laughed out loud. "What is 'shnockered'?" As Gimli poured his ale down his throat enthusiastically, spilling some of it down his beard, the elf grinned. "Oh, I think I know the meaning of the word now."

"We need a song! A good drinking song to fit the mood!" Exclaimed Pearl.

Pippin raised his mug, almost spilled it (for it was meant for larger hands than his), and spouted, "Yes! A song! Frodo, sing one of old Bilbo's tunes!"

Frodo grinned, but he shook his head. "I'm afraid my voice is no good at the moment, due to all of the weeping I did earlier."

"I know," said Merry in a sudden burst of brilliance, "Let's hear a dwarven tune from Gimli!"

The dwarf flushed and held his hands out, palms up. "Oh, no...our songs aren't as clever as the Shire songs," He protested.

"Oh, no you don't, friend Gimli," Laughed Legolas, "You aren't escaping this time. I fairly wore my voice out singing on the way here, and you never returned the favor. Sing a dwarven drinking tune for us!" Frodo and Pearl laughingly added their demands for a song from him too, and the dwarf finally stood up and cleared his throat.

"Very well, but only one!" They clapped and cheered, making his ruddy complexion turn red. He took a long swallow of ale, then began in his deep baritone voice.

The song was about a dwarf who came home heavy in the drink every night. He began to suspect something peculiar was happening in his home while he was away, for he kept finding boots that didnt belong to him, along with other items such as pipes and coats. Though the story in the song was clear that his wife was having an affair, the poor dwarf was simply too sauced to detect the lies she gave him. It was a hilarious song that had them all laughing until tears were pouring from their eyes, and they sang along when they picked up the verses a bit.

"'Ah, ye drunk, ye drunk, ye silly old drunk,

So drunk ye cannot see!

That's a baby boy that me mother sent to me.'

Well, for many a day I've traveled

A hundred miles or more,

But a baby boy with whiskers,

sure'n I've never seen before!"

Frodo promptly spit his ale out laughing as Pearl grabbed hold of Legolas and tried to lead the tall elf into a popular hobbit dance. It was such a ridiculous sight, for she barely came up to the warrior's hips as they stumbled around the loungeroom. Legolas got his hair entangled in one of the chandeliers and made an exclamation of pain, and Gimli barely managed to finish the song before he roared with laughter. "Oh dear, you're all tangled up!" Cried Pearl, her small hands covering her mouth as she tried not to giggle.

"Help, a light fixture has ambushed me!" Cried Legolas, though he too was laughing.

"Here, let me help," Said Merry in a slightly slurred voice. There was no way the hobbit could reach that high up, however. Stretched on his tiptoes, it still hung a good two feet beyond his reach.

"We should...pull a chair...over..." Gasped Pippin. Then he fell to the floor and rolled around, giggling helplessly.

As Legolas blindly groped at the chandelier and tried to free himself, Frodo ran into the kitchen to grab one of the chairs at the table. When he came back, he gave a warning cry. A tipsy Merry had Pearl on his shoulders, and she was clumsily reaching towards Legolas entangled mane. The elf gave a cry of pain as she slipped and snagged a small lock of his hair clean out of his head. With a shout, Merry fell over, and Pearl ended up clinging to Legolas's shirt to keep from falling as well. Now Gimli was on the floor as well as Pippin, and the dwarf was slapping the hardwood boards with helpless mirth. Legolas looked down ruefully as his shirt ripped open from Pearls weight. Chuckling, Frodo put his hands around the lass's waist and helped her to the ground. He swallowed hard as her body brushed against him, his mind conjuring up images of what she had done to him earlier.

Shaking his head to clear it, Frodo pulled the chair up beside Legolas and climbed onto it. "Oh, friend Frodo...thank Elbereth someone in this house has some sense!" The elf wailed in a mock-hysterical voice.

Frodo grinned and said, "Stop laughing, or I shan't be able to untangle you without ripping your hair!" Legolas pinched his lips, and Frodo realized the elf had little alcohol tolerance. He'd never seen Legolas drunk before! The elf's shoulders began to shake again, and Pippin's high-pitched giggle and snort set him off full-fledged. Fortunately, Frodo was able to untwist the silken threads of hair that had gotten lodged in the fixture before Legolas doubled over with laughter. Shaking his head, but grinning all the same, Frodo stepped down off of the chair and took it back to the kitchen.

They managed to regain control of themselves once more, and Pearl gasped when she saw the rip in the elfs fine shirt that she had caused. "Oh, Master Legolas, I'm so sorry!" She said.

His eyes dilated, Legolas shrugged and smiled. "Think nothing of it. Thish ish a traveling outfit."

Gimli poked the elf in the arm. "You're slurring! Ha! Nothing like a mug or two of good, dwarven ale to loosen a fellow up!" Legolas grinned happily and plopped down on the floor. Even in the cups, he managed to look graceful when in truth, he very nearly fell.

Pearl sat herself next to Frodo on the couch and leaned her head on his shoulder. Without thinking of what he was doing, he put his arm around her, and Merry's jaw dropped. Pippin saw, but the Took merely giggled again.

"Frodo and my sister, sitting in a tree," Pippin began to sing. Realizing what he was doing, Frodo blushed and snatched his arm back. "Oh, come on, Frodo! We don't care!"

Merry whispered loudly enough for the whole room to hear, "He needs a good shagging anyways!"

Frodo gasped and his blue eyes became as round as saucers. His whole body turned a delightful shade of pink as his friends and cousins snickered. Gimli inadvertently saved him from further embarrassment by suggesting they play a dwarven drinking game. By the end of the day, they were passed out in various places on the floor and furniture. Wonder of wonders, not a one of the hobbits took the time out to think about afternoon tea, or supper, or dinner.

Part Three
 

"Ooowwch!" Howled Pearl Took as she reluctantly fought her way out of sleep. "That dreadful Gimli...I'll never forgive him for bringing that Dwarf drink here!" She sat up to get her bearings, blinking her green eyes. Gimli was flat on his back on the floor, his meaty hand still clutching an empty mug. Snores erupted from the dwarf periodically, echoing through the spacious (to a hobbit) house. In a corner, Legolas sat cross-legged, seemingly in a trance. Pearl found herself highly jealous of the elf. No doubt he was easily cleansing his body of the impurities he had consumed last night! "Not fair!" Pearl muttered. Her brother was piled on top of Meriadoc cross-wise...she had no idea how the two of them had managed to pass out in that position, and frankly, she wasn't sure she wanted to know! The two hobbits slumbered blissfully a few feet from Gimli. There was no sign of Frodo.

An unreasonable panic shot through Pearl, and she stumbled through the house calling his name. She heard a sound down the west wing of Brandy Hall, and she followed it to the closed door of the privy. "Frodo? Are you alright?" Stupid question. She could hear him retching.

After a few moments, a hoarse, miserable voice answered, "Kill me, please," from within the privy. Pearl giggled and sighed in relief. He didn't sound as though his wound was troubling him. He sounded like a miserable, hung-over hobbit. He stumbled out a moment later, and despite the dark circles under his eyes and how disarrayed his tumbling hair was, he was beautiful. Pearl brushed her fingers through her own tangled, honey-colored hair and thought she must look like a hag. Frodo gave her a wan smile and hugged her gently. "I do hope you don't feel as awful as I do," He whispered.

She laid her head on his shoulder. "I'm not sick to my stomach, but my head feels as though an oliphaunt stepped on it!"

He chuckled and pulled away from her regretfully. "Sam used to make a mint tea when I was feeling dizzy or nauseous. Perhaps Merry keeps mint in his cupboard supply or garden." She followed him into the kitchen and looked through the pantry and shelves with him.

When Legolas spoke, both of them yelped, and Pearl winced at the sound of her own voice and messaged her temples. "How are you feeling this fine morn, my little friends?"

"Far better if you would announce yourself, instead of sneaking up on a body!" Said Frodo, though he grinned.

Legolas smiled and plucked a jar from the counter. "I believe this is what you are looking for?" Frodo recognized the leaves inside and blushed.

"Yes, it certainly is," Replied the hobbit, reaching for the jar. Legolas passed it to him with a twinkle in his eyes. Pearl took the teapot outside to the well in order to fill it, and Frodo kept his eyes downcast as Legolas regarded him gravely.

"You know, you are welcome to cross to the Grey Havens if your pain becomes too great to bear, Frodo," The elf said gently. "As a Ringbearer, you've earned that right."

Frodo took a mint leaf out of the jar and fiddled with it absently. "I know, my friend. I just...I feel as though I am leaving so much behind! Sam and Rose, my cousins...and..."

Legolas smirked. "And Pearl?" He finished for his diminutive friend.

Frodo felt his face heat, and he silently cursed himself for being riled to embarrassment so bloody easily. "Yes...her too. She has proven to be quite helpful. I cannot break her heart. I don't think I could break Sam's heart, either." He finally looked up at the tall elf, his blue eyes swimming with indecision. "What am I to do, Legolas?"

The prince of Mirkwood knelt down in front of Frodo and gripped his small shoulders gently. His bright eyes were compassionate as he said; "There is no need for hasty decisions yet, Ringbearer. You've got time to think on it. The migration of the elves will continue for many years." Legolas's face fell, and Frodo was astonished to find a bitter expression forming on the elf's fair features. "I, too have friends whom I cannot abandon so readily, though the sea does call to me. It is like being torn. Part of me feels it is for the best that I depart, yet another part of me knows I may regret it."

Frodo touched Legolas on the cheek. "I never knew you felt that way, my friend," The hobbit said, feeling his eyes well with tears to hear the elf speak his own heart's doubts.

Legolas smiled gently. "It is, perhaps, the reason you connect so well with the elves, Frodo. It was written in the stars that your destiny would forever change you. You are no longer quite like the other inhabitants of Middle Earth. Not even your own people. Like my folk, you are caught between the worlds. Elf-friend, my people name you and Bilbo. I now begin to see why, my dear hobbit." Legolas gave Frodo's shoulder one last pat and left the kitchen. The hobbit heard the door creak, but no footfalls. He couldn't blame the elf for wanting to go outside...the poor chap was cramped in this hobbit hole, no matter that it was a huge place to Frodo's kind. Did elves ever cry? He had never seen one do so, but the hobbit felt that Legolas was weeping on the inside.

Part Four
 

Gimli and Legolas stayed at Brandy Hall for another day, but all of the friends decided they shouldn't imbibe as much as they had on the first day. Poor Pippin had woken up positively green, and Frodo had gotten ill a further two times. Gimli endured his own hangover with typical Dwarf stoic-ness. Frodo found himself breathing a sigh of relief, for Merry and Pippin didn't seem to remember catching on about he and Pearl and teasing them. Only Legolas recalled the entire night, and the elf had the decency not to bring it up during his stay. Pearl, for the most part, managed to keep her flirtations with Frodo discreet. She'd occasionally pinch his bottom when the others weren't looking, or give his hand a gentle squeeze, but she refrained from being too obvious.

On the third morning since they arrived, Legolas and Gimli left the Shire. The elf pressed a small, rolled up piece of parchment into Frodo's hand right before he and the Dwarf started on the road. As he watched his two dear friends leave, Frodo unrolled the parchment.

"My dear hobbit,

You have the most gentle, kind smile.

Do not deprive pretty Pearl of it.

Smile!

Love and light to you.

Your friend,

Legolas"

The hobbit found himself grinning from ear to ear as he waved goodbye to Legolas and Gimli. The elf threw a wink over his shoulder and mouthed, "Smile!" Frodo chuckled, feeling light-hearted for the first time in months.

"Well then, I suppose Pippin and I shall be off as well," Said Merry once their two friends had vanished over the hill.

Frodo gave him a confused look. "Off to where?"

His cousins shared an unreadable look. "Oh, to Green Hill Country. We've got some business over there." Merry replied.

Frodo became instantly suspicious. "What are you two up to now? Why didn't you travel with Legolas and Gimli?"

Pippin shrugged. "They aren't going there. They are stopping off at Bree, then heading North."

Frodo gave them both a searching look, and Merry laughed at the expression on his face. "Relax, my good hobbit! You'll have the hole all to yourself for three days...with the exception of Pearl. She'll be staying to keep you company while were gone." The Brandybuck gave Frodo a sly look, and he blushed.

Dear Heavens! Merry knew! Frodo quickly glanced at Pippin out the corner of his eye, but the younger hobbit was checking the shodding on his walking stick, and seemed oblivious to the exchange. Frodo was thankful that Pearl had gone into the house before his and Merry's conversation began, or he would be stammering and stuttering like an idiot right now.

"Don't worry, Frodo! Pearl is an excellent cook, and she's almost as much fun as Pippin!"

Hearing his name, the young Took looked up. "Ay? Did you say something, Merry?" Merry rolled his eyes and gave Frodo a wink and a pat on the shoulder.

"Let's be off, Pip. The road waits for no hobbit!" Whistling, Merry started off, and Pippin gave Frodo a wave and started after the Brandybuck.

Frodo shook his head and sighed. Sometimes he felt like he was in a dream induced by bad mushrooms, when he was around his two cousins. He ran his fingers through the tumbling curls of his dark hair and went inside. Pearl was whistling to herself and chopping carrots. "How does coney stew sound to you, Frodo?" She said. "I've got cherries for dessert, too." She gave him a once-over as she said the word "dessert", and he felt his pulse quicken.

"That sounds lovely, Pearl. Can I help with anything? I've felt nigh useless over the past few days."

She smiled. "You aren't useless, cutie. If you want, you can fill the stew pot with water for me and fire up the cooking pit."

He eagerly did as she asked, glad to have something to do to take his mind off of the things that might potentially happen between them over the next three days. His stomach was full of butterflies. When they had their...encounter in the river the other day, he was surprised that he wasn't overcome with fear. Things were done to him when he was a captive in Cirith Ungol. Things that he had never confessed to anyone. He hadn't lied to her when he said nobody had ever touched him the way she had. The orcs simply shoved him to the floor and used his small body for their enjoyment. He suspected that Sam knew, however. His dear friend had found him in the tower and stopped a whip-wielding orc from doing more than striping his body once, but he had come too late to stop the internal damage they had caused. Frodo remembered the gardener sobbing as he cleaned the blood from his pale thighs, and how frantic Sam was as he searched almost hopefully for a cut or wound that would account for the blood.

Frodo felt shame burn in him as he carried the pot to the well and pumped water into it. He grit his teeth and tried to bury the memories, not wanting to see them again. The question was, why hadn't he been afraid when Pearl's hands had worshipped his body so thoroughly that day? Was it because he was getting over the memory? Frodo bit his lip and felt tears forming in his eyes as he remembered a different night. He must not be over it, he decided, for when Hobbiton threw a celebration after the scouring was ended, Frodo had reluctantly danced at Rose's insistence. A young male hobbit had brushed up against him from behind, and Frodo became quite aware that the other hobbit found him attractive. He could feel his hardness press against his bottom. Frodo had stumbled away in a panic, shouting, "Stay away from me!" at the top of his lungs. He flushed as he remembered how Sam had dragged him away from the party and held him as he wept. What a scene he had made!

He finally deduced that his fear was directed at males making sexual advances towards him. It made sense, actually, and it was the only logical reason he could think of that explained why he hadn't reacted in terror when Pearl touched him. Certainly he felt nervous and shy, but from what little he knew of the subject, those feelings were normal to an inexperienced person. He finished filling the pot and returned to the hole. Pearl looked up from the cony meat she was cutting and smiled. "Thank you, Frodo."

He smiled gently back, feeling a bit more at ease. For now, her attention was centered on cooking, and he didn't have to worry about what he should say or do. He took the tinderbox from the shelf beside the cooking pit and began the work of starting a fire. It didn't take long...the wood was dry and caught fire easily. Frodo's blue eyes widened when he felt small hands suddenly caressing his bottom, just as he was about to straiten back up. He stood up and whirled around, then sighed in relief and chastised himself. "Stop thinking of that horrid place!" He thought to himself, and forced a grin.

Pearl wasn't fooled in the least, however. When she had kneaded the firm roundness of Frodo's rump, his whole body had tensed, and his astonishing blue eyes were round with fear when he turned around. Once he saw it was her (who else could it have been?), he relaxed visibly and seemed almost ashamed. The smile he gave her was sickly looking, and beads of sweat sparkled on his brow. "Frodo, what is it? You've never reacted like that before."

He flinched. Pearl was a sharp one, like Merry. As silly as she behaved sometimes, she could see straight into a person's soul. He hesitantly put his hands on her shoulders and rubbed them gently. "I'm sorry, Pearl. My mind drifted, and I was some place else...some place I'd never wish to see again. The memory came to me unbidden while I was filling the pot with water."

She had only heard stories from Merry and Pippin of the terrible things that Frodo had endured, so she didn't have an exact idea of what he might have been remembering. Despite this, she had a suspicion. His brief panic attack had occurred when she stroked his bottom. She bit her lip and looked up at him gravely, for once completely serious. Her admiration for him increased, in that moment, and she saw a wounded, yet strong and pure spirit lighting his fair features from within. "I'm sorry, dear Frodo," She whispered, softly caressing his lips with her fingertips. "I...I shall try to refrain from touching you without warning."

He swallowed hard and dropped his eyes. "Please, do not think it is you, Pearl. You are wonderful in every way." He blushed, and she smiled in adoration. His shyness was so appealing to her.

She planted a soft kiss on his cheek. "Why don't you have a glass of brandy and relax? It'll only be a little while before the stew is ready." He nodded and gave her a look of such sincere gratitude that her heart skipped a beat.

Part Five
 

Pearl proved to be delightful company. She finally gave in and began to allow him to help more actively in the kitchen, setting him to small tasks like chopping vegetables or kneading the dough to softness whenever she made bread. The dough turned out to be quite an interesting lesson, as she guided Frodo's hands with her own and smoothed it out with him. At one point, he found himself aroused and turned his face towards her. With his gaze heavy lidded like that, and his lips parted, she couldn't help but kiss him deeply. They nearly didn't finish preparing the dough, but Frodo gathered his self-control and managed to break the kiss. He tried to ignore the thundering of his heartbeat and the inviting expression on her face.

For her part, Pearl tried not to be too pushy. It was difficult. Here it was, only their first evening together, and she constantly found herself fascinated with the open V at the top of his white shirt, where it was unbuttoned and revealing just enough of the smooth flesh of his throat and collarbone to prove tantalizing, yet teasing. The sun went down, and they quietly ate their supper and drank a glass of wine each. He gazed at her with an unreadable expression, his lapis eyes shadowed.

"What's on your mind, Frodo?" She finally asked, unsettled by his wordless stare. Those eyes of his blinked, and he seemed to come out of a trance.

"Oh! I beg your pardon, Pearl. I was...um..." His gaze slid down to his half-eaten food and he blushed.

Pearl fought off a giggle, finally realizing that he had simply been staring at her. She took a deep breath. By the Shire, it was difficult to read Frodo Baggins! Any other male would have had a distinct expression on his face, and she would have known immediately that they were admiring her form. She went to spear a sausage with her fork, and when she looked down, she understood why he had been staring. The lacing of her blouse was hanging loose, allowing quite a bit of tanned cleavage to show. She fought a grin and brought the sausage to her mouth, looking into Frodos eyes as she did.

"Oh dear," He thought as she licked the end of the sausage delicately, her green eyes flashing at him. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, for his trousers suddenly felt too tight. "I should look away...find something else to look at, Frodo!" His brain screamed silently.

Pearl forced herself not to grin in delight at Frodo's obvious fascination with her actions. His blue eyes seemed riveted to her mouth as she sucked on one end of the sausage before taking a dainty bite from it. He wriggled a bit in his seat and parted his lips, not understanding, in his innocence, why the sight of her eating a sausage sent tingles shooting through his groin and belly. He managed to tear his eyes away and pick up his wineglass. He took a huge swallow, and nearly choked on it.

"Frodo! Are you alright?" Pearl said in concern as he began to cough. He held his hand up to indicate that he was well, but she still hopped out of her chair and bounded over to him. Her small hands pounded his back, and he started to laugh in spite of himself. Once a Took, always a Took.

He calmed himself and took her hands in his. "I'm fine, dear Pearl. I simply swallowed my wine the wrong way." She stared at him in concern for a moment, and he smiled to prove he was all right. Then he began to stroke her hands with his thumbs, and she leaned forward until their breath was mingling.

"You gave me a scare, Master Baggins," She said with a mock frown. He parted his lips and moistened them with his tongue, and Pearl suddenly knew how he must have felt when she was teasing him with the sausage. She pressed her lips against his and traced the contours of his velvety mouth with her tongue. When he returned the caress with his own tongue, she whimpered softly and ran her fingers through his thick hair. Then she pulled her mouth away for a quick moment, only to bring it back again.

Frodo ran his hands down her sides in a sensual glide, then rested them on her hips. He experimentally sucked on her tongue, and the result startled him. Pearl purred so loudly that it was practically a growl, and her hands drifted down his neck to his chest. Her fingers clawed at his shirt, and two buttons popped off as she pulled the garment open further. Heat flushed his body as her hands caressed the smooth skin of his chest, and he gasped when she stroked his nipples. "Feel good?" She said in a husky whisper.

He nodded, unable to articulate the sensations that were spreading through him. Her lips left his, and before he could get the chance to be disappointed over it, she began to kiss his jaw and throat, gently nipping him with her teeth as she did so. She lifted her leg and slipped her knee between his thighs, and he spread them automatically. "Oh, Elbereth," Frodo thought to himself, "I may shatter into a million pieces if she does to me what she did the other day!"

Pearl was pulling his shirt the rest of the way open, heedless of the buttons which were flying off in different directions as she struggled to bare his flesh to her desperate hands. Her knee began to rub against the hard bulge between his legs, and he moaned. His hands slid back to cup her bottom, and he began to pull her skirts up without even thinking about it.

Pearl knew she should temporarily put a stop to this. Frodo was so wonderful; she wanted his first time to be in a bed...not in a chair by the dinner table! The problem was, his skin was so silky against her tongue, and it tasted so good...like rainwater, she thought. To add to this, he had pulled her skirts up and his long fingers were stroking the back of her thighs in a sensual, soft caress. "Oh, Frodo...I want you so much! I might wither like a parched flower if you dont fill me!" She gasped.

Her words fanned the flames which her hands and mouth had begun on his body, and he groaned as his control slipped. A vision came unbidden to his head, and despite his arousal and pleasure, he blushed. He pictured himself lifting her up, sweeping the dinnerware off of the table, and taking her hard and fast, right on top of the table. He gasped, unaccustomed to feeling such raw, carnal urges. "I cannot do that to Pearl!" He thought, and tried to calm himself down. In his mind, the image was conjured up from the darkness within him. Surely that was no way to treat someone you cared for!

She noticed that something had made him uncomfortable. "Frodo, is your shoulder bothering you? Was I pushing too hard with my knee?"

His breathing was uneven, and his blue eyes burned as he looked into her eyes. Pearl was a bit taken aback. That gaze, it was so intense! It turned her knees to jelly and made her gasp. She sensed that her beautiful gentlehobbit was struggling with very strong urges...ones that he most likely was unprepared to feel.

"No, Pearl...you are exquisite," He murmured, his voice a droning, husky song to her ears. "It is just that I'm not at all certain that the things I want to do to you are...proper."

Her stomach did a little flip, and her breath caught. Though he was blushing, his nostrils flared with his gasping breath, and his lips were parted and moist. The intensity of his eyes was both frightening and enrapturing, and it did queer things to her body that she had never experienced before. A bit breathlessly, she untangled her leg from between his thighs and took his hand in hers. "Come into my bedroom with me, Frodo." She demanded. Part of her shivered, worrying that she had misunderstood. What if he wanted to hurt her? She scoffed at the absurdity of the thought. Frodo had never hurt a living being in his life. He would never do her harm!

He stood up and began to follow her, then stopped abruptly. She turned to regard him, and though the fire hadn't left his eyes, there was a worried expression on his face. "Pearl...you do not have to do this. I couldn't bear it if-"

She broke his sentence with a passionate kiss. "Oh, I do have to do this, my darling Frodo. If I don't, I'll wither. I told you that already."

She received no further arguments from him as she tugged on his hand and led him to her bedroom.

~*~

Pearl closed the door behind them and stared at Frodo. She reminded him of a cat who had a particularly delectable bowl of cream sitting in front of her. It drove him mad, and he had to fight to keep his breathing even.

"Tell me what you need, Frodo," She purred as she put her hands on his waist and kissed his collarbone.

He trembled and closed his eyes. Perspiration beaded on his face, making it glow. The sun had almost set outside, and the dying rays cast his features in sharp relief. Pearl was staring at him in awe, and a feeling of power swept through him. He had never felt powerful before, except near the end of his journey, when the ring had begun to gain a stronger hold on him. The feeling was at once exhilarating and frightening. He licked his lips and swallowed. "I...I do not know," He whispered.

She pressed herself against him and rubbed her body up and down, drawing a groan from his lips. She could feel every delicious contour of his frame, and her own breath quickened to match the gasping pace of his. "I think you know what you need, darling one," She whispered, and nipped his earlobe with her teeth. She slid the fabric of his opened shirt down over his shoulders until it was only attached to his arms by the sleeves. Her tongue hungrily licked and teased his chest and torso, drawing breathy sighs and moans from him. She smiled when she cupped the prominent bulge between his thighs and felt the small, damp spot on his trousers over the area. "Tell me," She murmured. Then she flicked her tongue out and circled one of his nipples with it, making it tighten up.

Unable to cope with the tide of lust surging through him, he gasped, "I need...I need to be in control. I want to ravish you, Pearl." Then he cupped her chin in his hand, forcing her face to tilt back. His mouth descended upon hers with bruising intensity, and his tongue thrust deeply into her mouth. She whimpered and put her arms around his neck as he pulled her tightly against him.

Frodo ignored the brief throb of cold pain that struck his shoulder as he lifted Pearl into his arms. He didnt have time to marvel at the surge of strength that infused his body...all he wanted was to get her onto the bed and out of her clothing.

Pearl felt herself lifted, and the next thing she knew she was on her back, lying in the middle of her large bed. Frodo's slim body covered hers, and his narrow hips settled between her thighs. He was pulling at the lace that held her blouse together, and when she tried to help him, he covered her hand with his and shook his head.

"Let me do it," He panted. She laid back and stroked his soft hair as he tugged and pulled the laces free. The blouse was pulled off, and Pearl was suddenly thankful that she wasn't wearing an underblouse, for his lips latched onto a nipple and began to suckle it.

"Oh!" She gasped as pleasure shot through her. Frodo began to caress the other breast with one hand, and he lifted his hips so that the other hand could begin pulling her skirts up. This certainly was unexpected! How much had Frodo Baggins been holding in, for him to respond so aggressively? She writhed beneath him as his hand slid up her thigh to her hip, the sensitive fingers seeming to know what to do, even if Frodo himself was unsure.

"I want to touch you...the way you touched me in Baranduin the other day," He whispered, his breath hot against her flesh. He unconsciously rubbed his throbbing erection against her leg as he spoke, and he hissed at the friction.

Pearl moaned. "Yes...please, Frodo!" She trembled in anticipation as his long fingers crept beneath her panties. Her breath hissed in and out from between her teeth, and she arched her neck and closed her eyes as those wise fingers of his began to rub her sensitive vulva in gentle circles.

"Is this correct?" Frodo asked huskily, his blue eyes searching her face.

It took her a moment to answer him, so good did his stroking fingers feel on her. "It's...delicious!" She whimpered, and she bit her bottom lip and trembled as an orgasm struck her quite suddenly. She cried his name and her fingers dug into his back.

His blue eyes were concerned as he watched her brow furrow as though she was in pain. "Am I hurting you?"

She tossed her head and panted, "No, don't stop, Frodo!" She rose up a bit and kissed him ravenously as her climax played itself out.

He smiled against her mouth, finally understanding that her cries and shudders were from pleasure. He could feel slick dampness lightly coating his questing fingers and her loins, and curiosity struck him. Once she calmed down and lay panting and relaxed beneath him, he experimentally pushed one finger between the folds of skin he was massaging, and he felt immense satisfaction that his theory was correct when the digit slid into a tight, warm entrance. Pearl lifted her hips against his hand and moaned as he explored her with his finger.

"By the Shire...are you certain you've never done this before?!" She cried when his finger amazingly found a spot inside of her that nobody had ever managed to find before.

Frodo grinned and blushed a little, understanding that he was doing something right. He continued to stroke the small spot of smoothness inside of her, and her breath caught. She undulated against him and purred, her hands gripping the bedsheets. He kissed her neck and kept going until her back arched and she shuddered.

Frodo's eyes widened in amazement, for he could feel her vagina clenching and relaxing around his finger. Sweat dampened Pearl's hair, and her breasts almost seemed to swell a bit as this strange phenomenon occurred. He kissed her tenderly, slightly worried about her violent reaction to his fondling. "Are you alright, Pearl?" He whispered.

She didn't answer him with words. Instead, she gripped his buttocks and kissed him deeply. Frodo groaned against her mouth and withdrew his finger so that he could remove her skirt entirely.

"I need you inside of me," Pearl panted, planting soft, urgent kisses all over his face and neck as she spoke. She lifted her hips so that he could remove her skirt and panties, and her own fingers were working at the fastenings of his trousers. The stubborn garments finally came loose after a bit of maneuvering and swearing, and they stared at one another in admiration.

Suddenly shy, Frodo bit his lip. "I'm not quite sure what to do," He confessed, lowering his sapphire gaze. "I have an idea, of course...but I'm not certain it is correct."

Pearl kissed his soft lips and murmured, "Cover me with your body, as you did earlier." He did so, and she sighed in pleasure from the feel of his skin rubbing against hers. She met his intense gaze and gently curled her fingers around his penis. She could feel it pulsing in her hand, keeping time with his heartbeat. Unable to resist, she stroked it a couple of times, loving the satiny feel of it in her hand.

Frodo closed his eyes and shuddered, holding himself still while she rubbed him. "Pearl," He gasped in warning, feeling himself getting ready to ejaculate.

She stopped immediately, understanding that he might not possess the self-control to hold his orgasm back. Her own loins throbbed with need, demanding to be filled. She cooed to him soothingly and stroked his damp hair to calm him, and after a little while, his trembling ceased and his breathing returned to a less frantic level.

"I think I am ready," He said with a sigh of relief, and he grinned at her. She returned the grin and spread her thighs wide, lifting her knees up.

Her small, strong hand gripped his erection again, and she said, "Push your hips forward, darling. I'll guide you in."

Frodo did as she advised, staring into her green eyes all the while. He felt her tightness against the tip of his member. Her vulva was resisting the penetration, and she winced a bit. "Pearl, if this is painful to you, I do not want to do it," He said truthfully. The last thing he wanted to do was cause this dear lass pain.

She shook her head and looked up at him sincerely. "No, Frodo. It might be a tad uncomfortable for me at first, because...well, you're a big boy." She grinned wickedly as his cheeks turned pink and he blinked. "Don't worry. It will only take me a moment to adjust. I promise you won't hurt me."

He ran one fingertip down her cheek and jawbone in a tender caress, and she turned her head to kiss his hand. "I pray you aren't telling a fib to please me, dear Pearl." With that said, he pushed himself against her again, a bit more forcefully. His earlier ministrations paid off, for she was well lubricated and ready for him.

Pearl gasped and clutched at Frodo as the resistance gave and his penis slid slowly into her body. Frodo's eyes popped open wide, and his breath caught in shock at the feeling. He couldn't stop now if she wanted him to! He stared down at her with the most exquisite expression of wonder on his fair features she had ever seen, and she moaned as his hardness filled her completely. Once he was in as deep as he could go, he held himself still for both their benefits. He feared that the sensation of her warm, damp sheath gripping him was going to drive him over the brink, or make him swoon. "Breath, you fool!" The more practical part of Frodo's mind snapped. He exhaled in a rush, then drew a great, gulping breath of air and trembled. If the pleasure wouldn't have made him pass out, the lack of air surely would have!

Once he had mastered himself (at least enough not to orgasm right away), Frodo kissed Pearl's sweating brow and said shakenly, "Is it better?"

She purred and slowly undulated her hips, her hands running down his body to cup the twin mounds of his bottom. He groaned and pulled back a bit, then pushed forward. "That's it, Frodo," Pearl gasped, "you're such a fast learner."

He lost himself then. He began to pump his hips, careful not to allow his penis to slip out of her, and he moaned and kissed her deeply. His passion grew, and before he realized what he was doing, he captured her wrists and pinned her arms above her head.

Instead of frightening her, his subduing of her made her wanton with excitement. Pearl cried his name and locked her legs around his waist, coaxing him to greater passion. His long, deep thrusts increased in speed and his teeth nibbled the soft skin of her neck. "Frodo," She panted, "My darling Frodo!"

Breathless with pleasure and carnal urges, he could only manage a soft growl in response. She arched against him, her imprisoned hands grasping his tightly, and he bucked his hips sharply, making her cry out. Horrified, he stopped and looked at her with grave concern. "Did I hurt you, Pearl?" He said raggedly.

"No...Don't stop! Please..." She whimpered, and he needed no further urging. Their hands were locked together as tightly as their bodies, and their breathless cries mingled until it sounded like a bizarre duet. Pearl moaned in frustration, wanting to touch his body, but he wouldn't free her hands from his grasp. His mouth covered hers and his tongue thrust in synch with his manhood. She truly thought she would lose her mind from the pleasure.

Frodo finally released her hands and rose on his elbows to stare down at her with a half-bewildered expression. His expressive, blue eyes rolled slightly before the lids came down to conceal them, and he grunted breathlessly as his seed spurted. She sighed in contentment and stroked his damp bangs away from his eyes as his penis bucked within her. "Pearl," He whimpered, and collapsed on top of her, breathing raggedly.

They lay there for a few moments, with Frodo resting his forehead against her shoulder, and Pearl caressing his back and murmuring endearments to him. After a bit, he recovered and carefully slipped out of her body, then he rolled onto his side and embraced her, kissing her softly. "If I had known it was like that, I might have been more inclined to flirt with lasses than to read books," He murmured, only partially joking.

Pearl giggled and kissed his chest. "If I had known you had such a knack for lovemaking, I might have kidnapped you and kept you all to myself long ago, Mr. Baggins."

Part Six

Pearl was propped on her elbow, staring at her new lover as he slept. The silvery moonlight bathed Frodo's too-handsome features with a soft glow, making him seem so perfect, and so beautiful. He was as a marble sculpture to Pearl. Only the soft waves of nearly black hair spread out in a halo about that beautiful face made her remember he was a living, breathing hobbit, and not some artists statue. She touched his lips, which were slightly parted and relaxed as he slumbered. So silken. She wondered how Frodo saw her. Was she nearly as lovely to him as he was to her? She knew she was cute, of course. Her cheeks dimpled when she smiled, and her dark golden hair was long, soft and shiny. Many of the Shire boys had tried to court her for marriage, but despite her parents pressuring her, she turned them all down. In her eyes, there was too much living to do for her to settle down and spend the rest of her life with a swollen belly! Let her three other siblings produce the grandchildren!

As she stared at Frodo, she began to feel a bit differently. Though the thought of losing her freedom repelled her, she wouldnt mind having his wee one. She almost snorted, and caught herself before the sound escaped. "Good thinking, Pearl. The poor lad has been through more in one year than most other hobbits have experienced in their entire lifetime! Start hinting at marriage...yes, that'll scare him good and proper! He'd probably toss himself into Mount Doom!"

She clamped a hand over her mouth to muffle the irrepressible giggles that bubbled up from her own thinking. It was only a flight of fancy, she figured. Frodo was no more the marrying type than she was was. It would be nice to stay with him, however. Shed keep him for as long as she could. "This isn't fair," She fumed silently, "I think I'm falling hard for him! How Pip would laugh at me!" She found her eyes welling with tears as she ever so softly stroked a lock of hair aside from Frodo's right eye. She knew that Frodo might not stay in the Shire for the rest of his life. She had overheard Legolas speaking to him of traveling to the West with the Elven folk if his pain became too much to bear. The knowledge pained her, like a hand gripping her heart and squeezing it mercilessly.

"I know you might be taken away from me any day now, Frodo," She said in a hushed whisper...so low that she could barely hear herself speak. "And, if that's what it takes to make you better, I won't stand in the way...but, it hurts!" She had to push her face into the pillow to muffle the soft sobs that began to shake her small frame. Oh, how did this happen to her? When Frodo first came to Buckland, she had only meant to have a bit of fun with him. He was exciting, and exotic, and so much changed from the boy she once knew, so long ago! She wasn't supposed to get attached to him like this!

She turned her back to him; afraid he might wake up and see the tears streaming down her face. For a moment, she almost hated him...almost. How dare he do this to her? Of all the nerve, to have such fathomless blue eyes and incredible features, and to be so wise and kind and loving on top of all of that? Her tears dried, and she smirked at how silly she was behaving. It was hardly Frodo's fault. She was the one who had instigated the entire thing, foolishly believing she knew what she was doing. Ha! Fool of a Took, as that crusty old Gandalf would probably be saying to her, if he were here now. You put your foot in the slop...it's your job to clean up the mess! She sighed and wiped her face, making sure that there was no evidence of tears on her cheeks.

When she rolled back over, she was so startled that she almost gasped. The very eyes she had been silently blaming for her predicament were open and staring at her-glittering in the moonlight.

"Is everything alright, Pearl? I thought I felt you shaking," Frodo whispered. His brows were drawn together in concern.

She forced a cheerful grin. "Of course, dumpling! I...I had a funny dream and started to giggle. I'm sorry if I woke you up."

Horribly gullible, for he had no reason to believe anything but laughter would have made her shoulders shake like that, Frodo smiled tenderly and put his arm around her. She gladly snuggled into his embrace, inhaling his scent as she nuzzled his neck. He kissed the crown of her head and whispered, "You are going to get yourself into trouble if you keep doing that, sweet Pearl."

She felt him harden against her thigh, and her own pulse quickened in response. "Oh?" She sounded sad. "I thought I was being a good girl." She threw one leg over his hips and caressed his back, her lips seeking the smooth hollow of his throat.

Frodo sucked a sharp breath in and began to stroke her hair. She purred and wriggled closer. He sighed, "My sweet little kitten. I do so love to hear those sounds from you." His hands began to work their magic on her back and buttocks, then one of them teasingly slid around to the front. Pearl made a quiet sound of pleasure as his fingertips softly stroked the outer swell of her breast.

"Mmmm..Magic fingers," She said huskily, arching her body against his.

"Even though I have only nine of them?" He said softly, and she looked up at him, expecting a bitter expression. Relief made her relax when she saw that he was fighting not to laugh. He gave up when she grimaced at the poor joke, and his breath fanned her cheek as a burst of laughter escaped his lips. "I'm sorry, Pearl. I admit, I've not felt so much like my old self in ages. Poor as the joke might seem, it struck me as appropriate."

She laughed with him and rubbed the tip of his nose with her pert, small one. "Silly hobbit lad." She said with a grin. He kissed her lingeringly, and she forgot what they had been laughing about. He traced the rim of one of her pointed ears with the fingertips of one hand, making her shiver in delight. The other hand was stroking her body, lighting fires along her skin. Breath quickening, she nibbled his neck and did plenty of touching of her own. She marveled at the sinewy cords of muscle beneath his smooth skin. No other hobbit that she had ever known was built like him. His stomach was flat, lacking typical hobbit softness around the middle, and his hips were lean. He was still a bit thinner than what she would consider healthy for anyone, but since coming home, he had begun to fill out again, in all the right places. He would never be plump or even mildly round...it just wasn't the way he was built. This suit Pearl just fine.

She squirmed lower against him, kissing his chest and belly, then teasingly delving her tongue into his belly button. He gasped and his hands tightened on her for a brief moment. Smiling, she did it again, delighted by the way he tensed and hummed with pleasure. "Do you want to feel something even better, Frodo?" She purred, looking up at him with mischievous eyes. His expression was only slightly wary as he nodded. She ran her hands down his chest and ribcage, then gave his hip and shoulder a gentle push. "Roll onto your back." She commanded.

He obeyed, and she pulled the sheet down, exposing his nudity to her hungry gaze. His blue eyes glowed softly up at her from beneath lids heavy with passion and anticipation. "What are you going to do?" He questioned softly.

She chuckled and stroked his inner thighs, coaxing him to spread them wide. "Oh, you'll see, Mr. Baggins. I think you'll like it, too." With that said, she situated herself between his thighs and took over where she left off, licking and kissing his torso. Her hands caressed his hips, sliding beneath them to cup his buttocks and lift him a bit.

Frodo sighed in pleasure and closed his eyes. "That feels good," He murmured as her tongue traced little patterns on his lower abdomen. That soft little mouth was steadily traveling lower, and he unwittingly began to tense up in anticipation. Was she going to do what he thought she was going to do? He lifted his head and looked down at her to ask, and he caught a glimpse of hungry, glittering eyes before she dipped her head and put her mouth over the tip of his penis.

Frodo jerked involuntarily and sucked in a great gasp through clenched teeth. He reached up over his head and gripped the headboard of the bed tightly to keep from tangling his fingers into her hair and pulling it. "Unh! That feels.... That feels so..." He couldn't find the words, nor the breath to describe the shock of warm, wet pleasure.

With a pleased purr, Pearl released the tip of his cock to lick up and down the length of his quivering shaft, and he moaned and tilted his head back. His body jerked uncontrollably with each gentle lick, and she took one of her hands out from under his hips to rub his stomach in a soothing, circular motion. "Easy, my pretty lad. Try to relax." She whispered. Then she slowly took his organ into her mouth, sucking gently as she did so.

Frodo panted and tried to be still as her warm mouth nursed him. Her hand continued to rub his belly in lazy circles, which helped a little bit. His white-knuckled hands gripped the headboard desperately, and he licked his lips and stared up at the ceiling in astonishment at the sensations rippling through him.

Pearl took it slowly and gently, for she realized that not only was her love well-endowed, but quite sensitive, to boot. She took as much of him into her mouth as she could. Then she raised her head and let it slide out of her mouth slowly, her lips sucking all the while. She stopped when she reached the tip, and she circled her tongue around the smooth cap and tasted a bit of salty fluid that leaked out with his excitement. She repeated the action, sucking him back into her, then releasing him slowly, and a hot tightness coiled up in her belly as Frodo whimpered and began to helplessly rotate his hips.

Once she had gotten him accustomed to this pleasure, she stopped rubbing his belly and slipped her hand below her sucking mouth to fondle his testicles. Her lover's back arched and a groan passed his lips, making her lust rise further. She removed her other hand from beneath him and gripped the portion of his hardness that she could not fit into her mouth, then began to take him in and out of her mouth at a rapid pace, increasing the suction as she did so.

Frodo tossed his head from side to side and moved his hips in synch with her actions. Hardly aware that he was doing it, he began to curl up, rising into a half sitting position as he held onto the headboard for dear life. Fear began to rise within him, for he felt so helpless and at her mercy. At the same time, he was highly excited and in unbearable pleasure. His blue eyes snapped open and went wide as the pressure built to a crescendo, and he shouted out hoarsely, curling his toes as he came. Pearl gripped his hips supportively as his penis tightened up and spurted its salty essence into the back of her throat.

She stopped moving her mouth up and down his shaft, but continued to suckle gently, soothing the spent organ as she stroked Frodo's hips lovingly with her hands. He was breathing so raggedly that he sounded like he had just run all the way here from Mordor. With a final, tender lick to the tip of his penis, she released him from her mouth and climbed up next to him. She caressed his face, biting back a groan of desire at the disbelieving, yet sensual expression on his flushed features. His sapphire orbs shifted to look at her, and he cupped her cheek in his hand. He seemed to be unable to find words.

"I take it you enjoyed that, darling Frodo?" She said with a saucy grin. He gave a breathless laugh and nodded. With a sigh of contentment for being able to satisfy him so thoroughly, Pearl laid down beside him, putting her arm around his waist in a possessive hug. Exhausted from the force of his release, Frodo slipped off to sleep quite easily, and Pearl traced the slight smile on his sensitive lips and felt like a goddess.

Part Seven

"Clink...clink...bang!"

"Get out of here, you pesky thing!"

Aroused from sleep, Frodo cracked his eyes open and looked around. "Oh, that's right," He thought, "Last night, Pearl and I-" He grinned like a fool and blushed as the memories of all the things they had done together came flooding into his mind.

"Aaahhh! Don't even think of it! Shoo! Shoo!" Pearl's voice was shrill, coming from the kitchen. Frodo heard a swooshing sound and a muttered curse following her exclamation.

"What in heavens could she be doing?" He murmured to himself. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He peered blearily around the bedroom, trying to locate his trousers. The hobbit smirked when he finally caught site of them bunched up on the floor at the foot of the bed. Concerned by the alarmed little shrieks Pearl was emitting, he quickly pulled them on, not bothering to put his underpants on, as he intended to bathe and dress in a clean set of clothes anyhow. He went into the kitchen and lifted an eyebrow. Pearl was standing on a chair, with a broom in one hand and a frying pan in the other.

"Good morning, sweetling. May I ask what this is about?" He said. She started at the sound of her voice, dragging locks of wet hair out of her eyes. He swallowed when it occurred to him that she was only wearing a bathrobe.

"There's a huge spider in here! I know it's silly, but I'm scared to death of them!" She said, with a sheepish look at him. Merry or Pippin would have laughed...they always teased her about her phobia, but Frodo simply nodded in understanding.

"Where did you see it last?" He questioned.

She pointed at the dish cabinet. "It crawled under there."

"Well then, I shall have to slay the beast for you, won't I?" He said with a cheerful grin.

Pearl laughed, grateful beyond words that he didn't think her silly or "girly" for being afraid of a spider. Of course, she completely forgot that it was because of a mammoth of a spider that Frodo was captured by the orcs in the first place. Spiders were possibly the only animals who weren't safe from the gentle Ringbearer, and he hardly begrudged anyone for being afraid of them or disgusted by them.

He took the broom from her and got down on his hands and knees, peering beneath the cabinet. Pearl bit her lip nervously...there was no way she could do that! She kept picturing the horrid thing jumping out at him and latching onto his beautiful face. She kept herself from blurting, "Be careful, Frodo!" like an idiot. It wasn't like there was an orc or a Barrow-wight under there, after all.

Frodo pushed the sweeping end of the broom beneath the cabinet, and Pearl let out a squeak as the spider; a black, long-legged thing the size of her hand, came scurrying out. Frodo quickly reversed the broom and brought the handle down with perfect aim. He grimaced in disgust as the creature's body smeared.

"Pearl dear, could you fetch a damp cloth for me so that I might clean up this mess?" he said, his blue eyes twinkling at her and a crooked smile on his face. She was gazing at him with a strange expression on her face that he couldn't quite place. "What is the matter?"

Pearl shook herself out of it and quickly rushed to the sink to grab the dishwashing rag. "Here you are," she said a little breathlessly as she held it out to him. He smiled at her and took the cloth, then began to clean the mess off of the floor and broomstick handle. Pearl watched his lithe form as he worked, and she became very aware that she had nothing more than a robe on as she stared at his naked chest. She had no idea that Frodo could move like that! Though it was only a spider, the way he gracefully shifted the broom in his hand and splatted it left her in awe. "I really have lost my mind, to be aroused by something as trivial as killing a spider!" She thought to herself. Well, it wasn't the fact that he killed it. It was the way he had taken her fear seriously, and the way he had moved when he did it.

Frodo finished cleaning up the mess and turned to her. "I shall do the laundry today. I wouldn't want you to be troubled with having to wash this cloth, knowing what is on it." His blue gaze was soft with kindness, and she almost simpered at his thoughtfulness.

"Thank you, dear Frodo. You really are a darling." She grinned as he predictably blushed at the compliment before turning and heading to the "laundry room". Most upper class hobbit holes had these small rooms, so that they could separate dirty clothes and towels from cleaning rags, without leaving unsightly piles in plain view. She pondered on the reasons he might have for not having given her a kiss good morning or an embrace. She woke up before him, and decided to let him sleep while she prepared breakfast. The stupid spider ruined her plans for breakfast in bed. Hopefully, the incident with the filthy little arachnid had simply distracted him. She'd hate to think that he was still too bashful to kiss her, after the night they had! Deciding not to worry herself, she resumed her cooking preparations.

Frodo stood in the laundry room and glared down at the tent in his trousers. "You'd better start behaving yourself!" He snapped at his offending manhood. "She's going to think I am a lecher!"

His penis, of course, did not listen to him. He had left the kitchen so abruptly because after he killed the spider, Pearl had looked at him as though he was some sort of hero from legend. In response, his body became immediately wanton. He looked around the laundry room, searching for something...anything that would take his mind off of the forbidden fantasies that were lurking in his mind. His eyes settled on the washtub, which was fortunately full of clean water. "Bless your overdone attention to details, Merry," he whispered, and he squatted down in front of it and splashed the cold water on his face a few times.

He finally came back into the kitchen, a bit refreshed and feeling less likely to toss Pearl onto the table and ravish her (why did that picture stay burned into his imagination?). She had tied her thick, long hair into a hasty bun and was frying eggs when he came in. "Mmmm...Smells good!" He complimented. She had already cooked bacon, mushrooms and toast, which were piled onto a platter on the counter.

"I hope you're as hungry as I am." She threw over her shoulder with a wink. He froze in the act of taking dishes out of the cabinet to set the table, his bright gaze resting on the curves of her body, which were maddeningly revealed by the thin robe.

"She's talking about food, you imbecile!" He mentally scolded himself. Ye gods, this was almost as bad as the seductive call of the Ring! No...actually, this was worse. The Ring was using him as much as he was using it. Pearl was a kind, beautiful, living creature, whom he did not want to harm. "Restraint, old boy. You won't go into withdrawal if you don't make love to her every bloody minute!" His body disagreed with him, and he sat down at the table quickly to hide the evidence of his desire as Pearl turned around with a bright smile.

Pearl's smile faded beneath the onslaught of sapphire flame emanating from Frodo's intense eyes. Though he was blushing furiously, he couldn't hide his lust from her any more, now that she knew what that burning gaze meant. She swallowed hard, approaching him slowly. The food was going to get cold if they...but she didn't care. Her eyes drank in the sight of his chest, admiring how it was beginning to tone up as a result of good nourishment and less brutal exercise. Looking at him now, she could not even imagine him being as wrath-thin as Pippin said he was when Gandalf's eagle friends brought he and Sam down from Mount Doom.

Frodo misunderstood her hesitation and averted his gaze. "Forgive me, Pearl. I can't seem to help it. I didn't mean to frighten you."

She stopped in her tracks, mouth agape for a moment. Then she quickly went to him and knelt beside his chair, looking up at him and putting a hand on his knee. "Frodo, you didn't frighten me a bit! I was just a bit dizzy from the way you were looking at me."

He blinked, owl-like, then brought his lips down to hers. She cupped the back of his head and eagerly darted her tongue into his mouth to fence with his. He slipped his hands around her waist and coaxed her to rise, and when she did, he pressed her against the edge of the table and reached into the opening of her robe to cup her breasts. A thrill shot through her as his hands tenderly stroked her flesh and his kiss increased in intensity.

Frodo broke the kiss momentarily and bent his knees just a bit, sliding his hands beneath her buttocks as he did so. Pearl giggled in surprise as he lifted her onto the table. "This is naughty, Mr. Baggins," she whispered breathlessly.

Breathing heavily, he gazed into her eyes earnestly. "I know it is not very romantic...we don't have to if you don't want to."

"Don't you know me at all?" she asked teasingly as she untied the belt of her robe and let it fall open.

He caressed her bared flesh with his eyes for a moment, taking in every detail. He adored her small, but curvy body. Her breasts were round and firm, heavy in his hands as he cupped them and stroked the nipples to hardness. She moaned, her eyes fluttering closed, and he whispered, "Shhh, kitten. Be still and let me explore you."

Oh, how unfair! He says something as hot as that, and expects her not to yank him to her? Pearl did not argue with him, though. She doubted that Frodo knew just how sensual these little control games of his were. His hands continued to stroke her breasts, occasionally sliding down to her small waist and soft belly, then back up again to tease the nipples some more. His lips touched hers in a feather-light caress, and she hungrily kissed him. He pulled away a bit, depriving her of the kiss. "Now, now, Pearl. Do not be intransigent."

He smiled as she groaned in frustration, her oak leaf green eyes narrow and hungry on him. In truth, he was beginning to feel as though he was going to bust the fastenings of his breeches, he was so aroused. He delayed taking care of his own needs, however...he enjoyed having so much control over Pearl. It did not bother him as he expected it to, this desire for power. Was it because he was not causing anyone pain with it? Indeed, Pearl seemed to thoroughly enjoy him exerting authority over her. He planted soft, teasing kisses along her collarbone and chest, and finally her breasts.

She moaned and he gave a warning, "Tsk, tsk," then brushed his lips over the silken skin of her left areola, flicking his tongue out to circle it. His warm hands parted her thighs, and when she complied, he pressed his hardness against her exposed vulva and moved his hips so that the material of his trousers was rubbing against her.

Pearl clenched her jaw and fought for breath, wanting so many things that they seemed a jumble in her head. She wanted him to stop teasing and put his mouth on her nipple, but he continued to trace maddening circles with his tongue without actually touching the taut nubs. He lavished attention on each silken mound, one at a time. She wanted him to take those trousers off and plunge into her...the friction was occasionally striking the tiny nub of her clitoris and making her jump. He continued to torment her, his breathing uneven, and when she started to move her hips, he firmly held them still with his hands. Her breath whistled in and out as the small, merciless shocks continued in her loins as he steadily rubbed himself against her. She clenched her hands to stop from sliding her fingers through his dark curls...she knew he would only stop her. She couldn't stop the ragged cry of desperation that escaped her lips when he finally took one of her nipples into his mouth and suckled it.

Heat exploded through her body and she slid her fingers into his hair and pulled his mouth to hers. "Now, Frodo...if you don't, I'll die!" She panted.

In truth, he couldn't wait a minute longer either. He held himself still and took deep breaths as her hands frantically tore at the fastenings of his pants. She purred in satisfaction as the buttons came undone, and she pulled his trousers down below his hips and gently petted his stiff cock with her fingertips. She raised her gaze to his face and saw that his eyes were closed in pleasure at her touch, and his mouth was slightly open. "You're so beautiful, Frodo," She sighed as she gripped the throbbing hardness between his legs.

His eyes flared open, and the next thing that went through her mind was, "I doubt I'll be able to walk by the time Merry and Pippin come home."

Frodo claimed her lips almost brutally, and he disengaged her hand from his member so that he could position himself at her entrance. He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment, breathing raggedly and closing his eyes as his hands gripped her hips. She stroked his hair and kissed him gently. "Are you alright?" She inquired.

He swallowed and nodded. "I'm afraid I'll harm you," He said. The words seemed to be ripped out from somewhere deep inside of him.

Pearl resisted the temptation to wriggle against him and tried not to think about the delicious feeling of his penis pressing against her. "Frodo, we've already established this. You won't hurt me. Don't be afraid that I'll break if you get a little rough with me." Then she did move her hips, rubbing her slick opening against him teasingly.

She was glad that she had moved her hands around to his back, for if she hadn't, she might have accidentally clawed his shoulders in the next moment and hurt his scar. With a guttural moan, Frodo thrust hard and fast into her, his hands pulling her hips tight against his. Pearl cried out in a combination of pleasure and pain, for she hadn't expected him to be buried deep inside of her so suddenly. "Don't stop," She panted reassuringly to him when he gave her a worried look. "Let it out, Frodo."

He moaned and closed his eyes, his tongue darting out to lick his lips, and then he began to take her. The hard, sharp thrusts of his cock hit her internal pleasure spot over and over again, making the pain of the penetration barely noticeable. Pearl clung to him and locked her ankles together. She tried to match his furious rhythm with her own, but couldn't manage it because of her position. Frodo's cries were both rapturous and tortured, and she bit his neck to keep from screaming.

"Pearl...my sweet kitten," Frodo rasped against her ear, and his movements became more erratic. She slid her hands down his back and cupped his flexing buttocks. His lips were on hers again, kissing and licking and sucking against her mouth. The table began to slide with a creaking protest across the floor from the force of their lovemaking. Neither of them noticed it. Frodo took his hands off of her hips, then hooked his arms under her knees and leaned forward, pressing her onto her back and lifting her legs. He held them far apart and high as he straitened back up and pumped his hips in a slower rhythm. The penetration was astonishing, and they both trembled from it.

Pearl began to cry out with every breath as his thrusts became harder and harder. She stared up at him and climaxed when she saw the way his eyes bored into her with a mixture of lust and tenderness.

When her sheath pulsated around him, Frodo let go of her legs and leaned over her to kiss her arduously, and he said her name in a shaky, desperate voice as he spilled his seed into her. He trembled atop her, kissing her neck and cheek, and when he pulled back, she saw that he had unshed tears in his eyes.

He kissed her so softly then, and whispered, "Oh, Pearl. I love you. I truly love-" He didn't get a chance to finish his sentence, for the table gave a cracking groan of protest and quite suddenly collapsed. The two hobbits, still entwined, fell unceremoniously with the broken furniture, and Pearl got the wind knocked out of her from Frodo's weight landing on top of her.

Frodo's blue eyes were round with confusion as he tried to make sense of what just happened. It had startled him so badly that he failed to realize at first that he had landed on top of Pearl. "Oh no! Pearl...dearest...have I crushed you?" She had the most alarming expression on her face...it looked as though she was going to cry. Frodo winced at a sharp stab of pain in his damaged shoulder as he rolled off of her and gently checked for injuries.

Instead of screaming in pain or sobbing, the lass burst into hysterical laughter. He stared in amazement, afraid she had hit her head or was perhaps in shock. "Pearl, please tell me I didn't break anything!" He cried.

He was talking about her bones, of course, but the irony of the statement made her laugh even harder. She patted his cheek gently to assure him she wasn't more than bruised, but she couldn't find the breath to speak. Her stomach hurt from the force of her mirth. Frodo began to grin, and when he gazed around and saw the table legs broken, flat on the floor, and facing the cabinet, his laughter broke free. It pained his shoulder greatly, but he couldn't stop the chuckles from bubbling up. They hugged each other as their laughter played itself out, and finally managed to calm down.

Exhausted, Frodo stared up at the ceiling, his hand stroking Pearl's soft hair as she rested her head on his belly. What he had done dawned on him, and the color drained from his face as his eyes widened. "Merry is going to kill me," he said out loud. The statement caused Pearl to go into a fresh fit of giggles, and he soon found himself joining her again.

Part Eight

Frodo looked down at the corpse of the furniture he had managed to slay and shook his head. "I have really done it, this time," he muttered. After he and Pearl had composed themselves, he pulled his trousers up (which was quite laughable...they were entangled around his feet, and he nearly fell as he struggled to straighten them out) and lovingly closed her robe again.

The little minx who had helped him destroy the table, simply by being so desirable, stood next to him. Her shoulders still shook silently with mirth, and he smirked ruefully at her. "We could try to fix it," She said in a voice that quivered with laughter.

Frodo chuckled. "I dare say my carpentry skills are sorely lacking. No, I think the best that I can do is purchase a new one to replace it. It wasn't a family heirloom, I hope?"

Pearl shook her head. "No...and it wasn't very old, either. I always knew it was poorly made." She absently pushed aside one of the akimbo legs of said table, so that it wasn't laying in the walkway for someone to trip over.

"Well, I suppose I should get this mess cleaned up and chopped for firewood," Frodo said. "After that, I'll go to the Market and see about finding another one."

Pearl looked at him in concern, all traces of humor vanishing from him. She had heard his cry of pain when they fell, and even now, he was unconsciously rubbing the skin around the Morgul wound and rotating his left shoulder gingerly. Was it her imagination, or was the slash line of the stab wound a bit redder than usual? The healthier skin around it seemed paler than the rest of his flesh...almost blue-ish. "No, Frodo," she said forcefully.

He furrowed his brow in confusion. There was fear in her tone. "Pardon?" he inquired.

She pursed her lips and looked pointedly at his shoulder, and his lips parted in understanding. "I don't want you lifting anything and aggravating it more than it already is," she said, softening her tone. "I'll go to the Market and see if I can get some of the lads there to help. As for you, I'm going to draw a hot bath for you, and then I'm going to bathe you." A grin inadvertently found its way onto her face as his eyes widened expressively.

"Bathe me?" he whispered, turning pink.

She sighed in exasperation and smiled at him. "Don't tell me my pretty lad is still shy now, is he?" Her arms stole about his waist and she planted a soft kiss on his lips.

Frodo smiled sheepishly at her, gazing at her from beneath lowered lashes. Pearl grit her teeth as those long-lashed, ethereal orbs worked their magic on her again. "Oh, no you don't Frodo Baggins!" She said breathlessly. "If you keep looking at me that way, we'll never get you cleaned up and comfortably changed. I still have to feed you breakfast!"

He laughed softly, but the laughter was cut off with a grimace of pain. "Oh, my sweet Frodo," she whispered, her fingers gently touching the outside of the wound. It was definitely opening up. She could see the skin splitting. "Here...let's get you to the bedroom where you can lay down while I prepare your bath." He nodded, his eyes narrowed with pain. She could see his lips going white, and her fear increased. As quickly as she dared, she led him to her bedroom and helped him into bed. With a gentle kiss on his sweating brow, she whispered, "Try to relax, darling gentlehobbit. It won't be more than a few moments before you're submerged in a nice hot bath." It worried her that he did not reply. He gave a barely perceptible nod and stared at the ceiling.

"What do I do?" Pearl whispered frantically to herself once she had filled the large, rigged cauldron at the end of the deep bathtub. She knew nothing of how to treat Frodo when his wounds pained him. Nobody lived nearby who knew medicine, and she was afraid to leave him alone to go looking for someone. She considered running to the nearest neighbors and pleading with them to go for help, but she wasn't even certain that Frodo should be left alone long enough for her to do that! The cauldron now had light steam coming out of the top, and she cranked the handle so that it slowly tilted and poured its contents into the tub. Then she pulled the trapdoor shut over the fire pit so that the coals would die again. An ingenious way of heating bathwater, really.

When she returned to the bedroom, she was not heartened by the way Frodo looked. He smiled wanly at her, but his complexion was a ghastly bluish-white, and his hair was plastered to his forehead with perspiration. Pearl sat down on the edge of the bed and took his hand in hers. She stopped herself from recoiling in shock...those delicate, sensitive hands of his, normally so warm, were cold to the touch.

Frodo looked up at her, and his lovely blue eyes were the only color in his face. "It looks worse than it is," he tried to assure her. "Truly Pearl. Don't look at me as though I'm going to waste away before your eyes. I shan't." He reached up and captured a tear that was sliding down her cheek with his finger, gently wiping it away. Though the pain had steadily spread and was now throbbing through his entire chest and torso, he made himself sit up and fought to hide the agony of it from her gaze. He had to be strong, for her sake.

He wasn't fooling her one bit. As good as he was at keeping a poker face when he tried to, his eyes flared feverishly with pain, and she steadied him with her small, yet strong arms. "Easy there, Frodo. Lean on me, and we'll get you into the tub." Her heart wrenched in sympathy as she helped him to stand up and his breath hitched. She could tell he was putting on a brave front to ease her concern. He tried to walk upright, without complaint, but his mouth was drawn tight into a thin, white line, and he stumbled.

Once in the large, elegant bathroom, Frodo looked around with interest. "Merry has redecorated!" he said with more enthusiasm than was necessary. He was trying to keep the mood as light as possible, but Pearl bit her lip, thinking he was getting delirious. He leaned against the wall as she removed his trousers, and they almost went down in a heap when he stubbornly tried to walk to the tub himself.

"Frodo, stop trying to be so independent," Pearl scolded. "You're too weak to walk on your own!" As she slipped her arm around his waist and helped him, she noticed that he was chilled all over, and he trembled. For a moment, she wondered if she should just sit him down on a stool and give him a sponge bath. She eyed the deep bathtub with trepidation. What if he weakened to the point where he could not lend the strength to get himself back out of it once she was finished cleaning him up? She nodded to herself, deciding the sponge bath idea was safer. "Here, Frodo...can you sit up on this stool?"

He nodded, and she grabbed the stool in her free hand and brought it beside the tub, so that the Ringbearer could lean against the side of the tub if he needed to. Pearl picked up the sponge that sat on a hooked dish on the side of the tub and dipped it into the water, keeping one eye on Frodo as she did so. He made no sound as she lathered the sponge with a bar of soap and began to clean his undamaged shoulder and neck. She was very careful not to let any soap get into the half-open wound.

Frodo watched her as she lovingly lathered and rinsed him, and he tried to draw strength from her warm, sure little hands. The pain was getting worse, and shadows crept about the edges of his vision. It was similar to what he had suffered directly after being stabbed by the Nazgūl, but to a lesser extent. Fear fluttered in his chest like a trapped bird, and he fought to keep it caged. The memories were trying to break free and overwhelm him. He unconsciously brought his right hand to his chest, where he would normally have the jewel pendant that Arwen had given him hanging. It was packed away in his bags. When his left shoulder and arm began to grow numb, he realized he had been foolish in taking the charm off, even for a few days. Somehow, the light within it kept the darkness at bay when these fits came over him. He said nothing, however...not wanting to upset dear Pearl further.

Pearl finished bathing him and gently dried him off with a fresh towel, then she helped him into a robe. She noticed that his left hand was trembling, and he seemed to have difficulty moving the arm. Pursing her lips, she kept silent, though an ache rose in her chest. She wished vehemently that Samwise were here. He would know what to do to ease Frodo's suffering. "Can you walk, Frodo darling?" She said, swallowing the lump in her throat. His eyes seemed cloudy as he looked at her...the brilliant blue filmed over slightly.

"I...I think so," he said in a weak murmur. Trembling, he rose off of the stool, and Pearl used all of her diminutive strength to see to it that he had to exert himself as little as possible. Because she could feel his body trembling with weakness and pain, she chose to take him to the nearest guest bedroom, instead of making him walk to the other end of the house to hers. She barely managed to yank the corner of the covers down before he collapsed onto the bead with a moan. Fighting back tears, she helped him out of his robe and tucked him in, then sat on the edge and stroked his soft hair.

"Tell me what to do, Frodo. How can I make it better?" She hated the high, thin note of panic that crept into her voice.

He took her free hand in his right one and caressed it gently. "There is a pendant inside of a drawstring pouch in my bags," He spoke with effort. "Could you...fetch it for me?" She nodded and kissed his cold brow, then quickly went to the guestroom that he normally stayed in. She dug almost frantically through the bags. There were three of them, and she wasn't sure which one might have it. She found the book that he was working on, and she tenderly set it aside on the nightstand, not wishing for the pages to get crinkled. With a little crow of triumph, she finally produced a small pouch. She opened up the drawstring and saw the lovely, star-shaped jewel winking up at her. It seemed to carry a light of its own, for the room was in shadow, and no sunlight struck it.

When she returned, Frodo was breathing raggedly, and his right hand clenched the bedsheets in a trembling fist. "Oh, Frodo," she whispered, almost feeling the pain as if it were her own.

He squinted at the doorway. All he could make out of Pearl was a blurred profile against a painful backdrop of white light. "The light...it hurts," he moaned. She quickly closed the door and drew the curtains of the round bedroom window shut. Once the room was darkened, he could see her a bit better. Her features were foggy as she bent over him and gently lifted his head to put the pendant around his neck. He could make out the green of her eyes and the slash of her mouth, but the sweet details of her impish face were indistinguishable. Once the jewel was around his neck, he touched it with his right hand and sighed as his vision cleared a bit. Soft hands stroked his cheek and brow.

"What else can I do? What would Sam do if he was here...tell me, Frodo?" she said. She was weeping, now.

He thought about it for a moment, licking his parched lips. "The last time this happened, Sam boiled some athelas in water and made hot compresses with it. It...helps the pain and drives the numbness away."

Pearl bit her bottom lip. She knew what athelas was, but she had no idea where to get any. "Will you be alright for me to check the garden?" she questioned doubtfully.

He nodded and closed his eyes. "Yes...the necklace is holding the illness off. It may not get worse than this."

All the same, she didn't want to leave him alone for more than a few moments. She scampered out of the room and out the side door of the house to the garden. "Athelas...athelas," she muttered, over and over again like a mantra as she hunkered down and searched the garden. Chances were, she wasn't going to find any here. Most Hobbits didn't know about the plants healing properties, and considered it to be a weed. She prayed that, since Merry was the one who told her the uses of the plant as he learned them from Aragorn, he might have some growing for emergencies. She sobbed in relief when she recognized the long, thin leaves on a plant growing in a corner away from the flowers and herbs. She grabbed a good handful of it and rushed back into Brandy Hall.

She had never had the chance to boil up some tea this morning, so the kettle was thankfully still full. With shaking hands, she lit the fire pit, nearly dropping the tinderbox in her haste. She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the kettle to boil. Her thoughts turned to the words Frodo had said to her after their lovemaking...just before the table broke.

"Oh, Pearl. I love you. I truly love-" he had begun to whisper. Then they ended up amidst a heap of cracked wood as the table gave out from beneath them. Was it the heat of passion that made him say that, or was he confessing true feelings?

Regardless of the reason, hearing him say it warmed her from the inside out. It made what was happening to him all the more unbearable to her. Hadn't he suffered enough? It was as though some malignant force took great pleasure out of dangling peace and hope in front of the Ringbearer, then snatching it out of his reach as he grabbed for it. Feeling pessimistic, she began to think the table broke on purpose and jarred his arm, just because he had confessed contentment and love for someone.

The shrill whistling of the teakettle broke her out of her reverie, and she wrapped a rag about the handle so as not to burn herself, took a ceramic bowl from the cupboard, and filled it with the steamy water. She then threw the entire handful of athelas into the water and stirred it with a wooden spoon. She made a mental note to ask if the plant was poisonous if ingested...she would feel awful if someone used that spoon in the future and got ill from it. Grabbing a fresh cloth, she dropped it in the water as well, wrinkling her nose at the strong aroma of the broth. It wasn't a horrid smell, but it was certainly powerful.

All day long and well into the night she watched over Frodo, caring for him with a tenderness that only Samwise could compete with. Frodo begged her to eat something until she finally gave in and piled a plate with cheese, bread and grapes. She managed to get him to nibble some bread and a couple of grapes, washing it down with cool water. She ended up leaving the stove burning low and pouring the athelas water into it to keep it hot, so that she wouldn't have to keep boiling the tea kettle. Sometimes Frodo's eyes clouded over so much that he seemed to have gone blind, and he cried out with dark dreams when he drifted off in exhaustion.

Pearl learned, through Frodo's delirious ramblings, just what the orcs did to him in Cirith Ungol. She sobbed and bit her fist as he cried out, "Let me die! Oh, please...not again! It hurts...haven't you had enough pleasure from me? Sam...my dear friend...where are you? Make them stop, please!" Tears streamed out from the corners of his eyes and wet the pillow his head lay upon, and he writhed and screamed until she had to put her weight atop him to keep him from aggravating the wound more.

His voice was weak with pain and weariness, and she resisted the urge to clamp her hands tightly over her ears to avoid hearing what he was moaning. "Blood...it is coating my thighs now...dripping down my legs, and yet they still force me to the floor and use my body! Oh, Sam...please do not see them doing this to me! I do not want anyone to know!"

Pearl stroked his brow, her tears falling on his chest as she leaned over him and murmured, "Please, Frodo. It's only a memory. You aren't there anymore. Come back to me. Come back to Pearl!" She continued to speak to him all through the night, talking about the Shire and the streams and hills within their beautiful country. She recounted every amusing story she knew to him, including some of the ones about Bilbo. Mentioning the older Hobbit was a mistake, though, for he began to cry out about Ringwraiths and a flaming eye, and other things, which confused and frightened her.

Finally, upon the stroke of midnight, he quieted and truly slept. Dark circles bruised his eyes, and Pearl was fairly sure she had a matching pair herself. With a sigh of relief, she lifted the folded, wet cloth covering the wound in his shoulder and saw that the angry red coloring of the stab itself had faded. The blue tint in the surrounding skin was going away as well. She gently patted the cloth back over it and climbed into bed next to him, putting her arm around his waist and breathing in his scent. Fatigue soon got the better of her, and she fell asleep.

Part Nine

Frodo awoke feeling drained, but the pain of his wound was back to the old, bearable throb, and his skin had warmth again. He sat up and looked around, trying to recall the events of last evening. Pearl was nowhere in sight, but he could hear noises coming from the kitchen. He licked his lips, which were dry and cracked. A drink of water...that was what he needed. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and had the intention of getting up and putting his robe on, but a small shadow filled the threshold of the door, just as he was sliding off of the bed.

"Oh, no you don't! I want you to rest today, Frodo Baggins!" Pearl said as she came into the room, carrying a tray. He blushed and yanked the sheet over his lap to hide his nudity, and she giggled. "Still shy! You truly are amazing, my gentlehobbit!" He lowered his gaze and obediently put his legs back onto the bed, propping himself in a sitting position against the headboard.

"That smells good, what is it?" He said as he caught a whiff of cooked vegetables and mushrooms.

"Soup. I wanted to start you out on something light after you being so ill. I still can't believe how fast you've recovered! I was so frightened!" Her green eyes were soft with compassion as she set the tray in his lap.

Frodo took one of her browned hands in his and kissed it. "I'm sure you must have been. I am truly sorry, Pearl. When these fits come upon me, they happen quickly and finish just as quickly, though they leave me a bit weak for days afterwards. I wish I had warned you that it might happen, so I could have spared you the fear." He closed his brilliant eyes and brushed his lips back and forth across the top of her hand, sending tingles through her arm. He still had dark circles under his eyes and was pale, but mortal coloring had faintly returned to his complexion. That was something, at least.

"Don't you apologize for something you have no control over, dear one," Pearl said, a bit more harshly than she intended. Frodo opened his eyes a bit and gazed up at her through thick lashes. She caressed his cheek with her free hand and asked, "Do you remember saying anything while you were ill?"

He frowned. "No...in truth, the last thing I remember is you putting a warm compression on my shoulder...I think...I fell asleep?" He saw it then. The shadowed pain in her eyes, the helpless agony. Sam wore the same look on his face after he took care of Frodo the first time this illness happened. Frodo blanched as he began to consider the things he might have shouted out in his delirium. Very slowly, he leaned back. His brows drew together and his lower lip quivered. "Pearl...what did I say in my sleep?"

She winced and squeezed his hand. "It isn't important, love. What's important is that you know you are a beautiful, sweet hobbit who deserves to live out the rest of his days in comfort." Tears were rimming in her eyes.

Frodo's voice was carefully neutral as he whispered, "I spoke of Cirith Ungol, didn't I? You know what they did to me in there now...don't you?" His hand had gone still and dead in hers.

Pearl swallowed hard. "It doesn't matter, Frodo-"

He interrupted her, his eyes flashing with anger and self-loathing. "Yes, it does! How can you care for me, knowing I've been spoilt like that? How can you even look at me!" His hoarse voice was rising by the minute, and her jerked away from her when she tried to touch him to soothe him. "No! Do not touch me! I cannot bear it! I'm filth, don't you see? Filth!" He began to sob, and she quickly removed the tray so that he wouldn't spill it. He rolled over, turning his back to her, and curled into a ball.

She was crying in earnest as well, now. "Frodo, please don't do this! I care for you. More than that...I love you. I have to admit it, even if it's futile. I know you may leave us soon. I...I just have to tell you. You have to know that I love you, Frodo Baggins. All the orcs in Middle Earth couldn't change that!"

He stayed the way he was, shivering and crying, and she touched his back, desiring to comfort him. "I...need to be alone, Pearl. Please go." He murmured.

She covered her face and wept, and Frodo felt even more wretched. He didn't mean to hurt her. No, it was best that she stay away from him. Better to hurt her now, when their love was still fresh and she could eventually get over it. But, he didn't really want her to leave! He bit his lip and waited tensely. When he heard the rustle of her skirts, her soft footpads, he had to fight down a fresh wave of gut-wrenching sobs. "Go on, Pearl...save yourself the heartache of loving me," he thought, though little needles of loss were stabbing at his heart. Instead of fading, the footsteps moved around to the other side of the bed, and he saw her in front of him.

"I almost did as you asked, Frodo," she said softly as she slipped onto the bed next to him and lay down. Her green eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, and her little nose was red. She sniffled and tenderly reached over to brush wayward curls out of his face. "I don't care how much you rant. I'm a Took, and we're a stubborn lot! I'm not going anywhere! You only said those things because you're in pain. Well, so am I, you nitwit! It hurts me beyond measure to see you suffer, but I'm not going to simply turn tail and run from you at your insistence!" She stared deeply into those wounded, blue eyes to see if any of her words were sinking in. Finally, a tiny smile curled the corner of his mouth, and he began to cry again.

"Bless the Took stubbornness!" he sobbed, and he didn't resist when she pulled him into her embrace and rubbed his back in soothing circles. He held onto her tightly and buried his face in her chest as he wept. She murmured to him as she cried herself, kissing his brow and whispering endearments as they sought comfort in each other's arms.

After a few minutes, they pulled themselves together, and she helped him to sit up. "Please eat, Frodo. I went through all of this trouble to make a good meal for you...you don't want to waste it, do you?" She gave a tremulous grin, trying to be cheery.

He smiled warmly at her, and some of the tragedy faded from his lovely eyes. "Very well, Pearl. I shall try to be a better patient." She watched over him like a mother hen, making sure that he ate every drop of soup and both slices of bread. He drank two glasses of water with the meal, and once he was finished, he felt stronger. She patted his cheek and smiled at him when he was done, and as she took the tray from him and started off with it, he called softly "Pearl?"

She turned around, a worried look on her face, as though anticipating for him to say something awful. He felt guilty. "I just wanted to tell you...I love you too." His cheeks flamed as he said it, but his blue eyes were earnest and gentle. "I also wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being so strong for me. I never dreamed that anyone could accept me after what-"

She smiled as he trailed off. "I more than accept you, Mr. Baggins. I need you." The simple statement made his pulse quicken, and he watched her hips sway as she left the room. "Oh, and don't even dream of getting out of bed until I'm satisfied with your recovery, my blue-eyed darling," she said as she turned the corner. Despite himself, he grinned and relaxed in the bed.

The pain in his heart was still fresh, but knowing that Pearl Took loved him despite his shame made it less of a burden. His stomach full, he felt sleepy, and he drifted off without complaint.

~*~

Pearl managed to drag the heavy table pieces outside without help, though her shoulders were screaming from the abuse afterwards. She didn't want Frodo to even think about trying to help her with it. Once the mess from that was cleaned up, she swept and did laundry (grimacing in disgust when she had to clean the rag that still had spider goo on it), then began to cook lunch. "I'll go to the market after I feed the two of us and look for another table," she decided.

Fate had a different plan, however. Just as she was finishing up lunch, she heard keys rattling in the front door. "Uh, oh!" she said aloud. Merry and Pippin were evidently home early. She gave the center of the kitchen a slightly panicked look. The chances of Merry not noticing the huge bare spot where his table used to be were non-existent. Oh well...he would have still seen the broken up piece of furniture leaning against the outside of the hole anyways, even if she had gotten a new one before he came home.

"Do we really want to know, Merry?" Pippin was saying as they entered the house.

"Of course...what if they were attacked or some such thing while we were away? Pearl! Pearl, where are you!" Merry's voice echoed through the house.

They must have smelled the food, for two curly heads poked around the corner then. "Care to tell me what happened to my table?" Merry said, but the twinkle in his eye and the way he pinched his lips said he had an inkling.

"Termites." Pearl answered succulently. She wasn't about to let him bait her. She piled roasted tomatoes, ham slices and peas onto a plate and handed it to Pippin, who had his mouth open to question her. His eyes lit up, and he thanked her and turned on his heal to take his lunch into the loungeroom. She knew her brother so well!

"Termites," said Merry, crossing his arms over his chest. "Funny thing, that. When we were remodeling here, the carpenter complimented on how pest free Brandy Hall is."

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