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As they wandered into the clump of trees, Frodo became aware of a reckless giddiness foaming up in him; he tried to decide whether or not it was merely an effect of the ale he had been drinking, but soon he recognized he no longer cared about its source. He laughed as he sprawled against a wide tree trunk and pulled Pearl into his arms, making sure that the tree screened them from any prying eyes that might indulge in gossip.
“Feeling a bit bolder than usual, are you?” Pearl’s bantering tone did not completely mask her uncertainty, for Frodo rarely took the lead with her, rather the opposite.
“I suppose I am—you don’t mind, do you?” He tightened his grip and caught her mouth with his, plundering the sweetness of her lips as he let his hands slide down her back and cup her softly rounded bottom. He finally released her and whispered again, “Do you?”
“N-no,” she murmured as she struggled to catch her breath. “I don’t believe I mind at all . . .”
Frodo kissed her deeply again, and then spun her around so her back was to him. He slid down the tree trunk, carrying Pearl with him, so that she was perched in his lap as he sat there. No sooner was she arranged than Frodo began kissing the nape of her neck, letting the tip of his tongue sketch delicate lines on her skin. His right hand cupped one of her quivering breasts while his left slipped under her skirt, finding her soft inner thigh.
Pearl gasped as Frodo’s hand edged upwards. “Is this my real present?” she said huskily.
“Yes, it is.” His fingers found their goal, and Pearl’s head lolled onto Frodo’s shoulder as he caressed the silken folds between her legs. She moaned openly, beyond speech as her fondest hopes were realized. He does want me as much as I want him, he does, he does—
But if Pearl had possessed the ability to read Frodo’s thoughts at that moment, she would have been sorely disappointed. There would have been desire, true, but also a level of turmoil and panic that had no relationship to his actions. Even as he crushed Pearl against him and sought to please her, the unwanted knowledge of how the evening would end kept boiling up into Frodo’s mind. Why? Why does Bilbo insist on leaving? And why won’t he let me go with him? All his ancient fears of being abandoned were resurfacing, as the long-buried memories of his parents’ deaths tormented him once more. Just last night, he had dreamed of his mother lying on the banks of the Brandywine, her chestnut-brown curls soaked with water as they fanned out around her pale, still face. He awakened and groped at the bed only to find it empty, the distant memory of a tiny Pearl tucked against him that first night he had moved to Brandy Hall drifting through his grief. He knew then that he would do anything not to be alone . . .
His index finger brushed the tiny bud of flesh he had been seeking; Pearl gave another cry, full of raw hunger. Her back arched as Frodo began slowly stroking it, teasing her into complete surrender. She gripped his thighs as he circled and rubbed, feeling her moist, hot juices spreading over his fingers. His own arousal was growing, but he sensed he needed emotional release more than anything physical. He was determined to stay in command this time; to yield the reins now, he was convinced, would mean losing them for the rest of his days.
Pearl bucked as Frodo drove her onward relentlessly, her hair tangled against Frodo’s mouth as the sweat ran between her breasts. Her moans were continuous now as she desperately reached for the fulfillment that lay just beyond. “Oh, please don’t stop, please, please . . .” As she uttered the words, Frodo flashed back to his conversation with Bilbo this morning, well out of Gandalf’s hearing.
“Please, let me go with you!”
That owl-like peering he knew so well, the shake of the grey head. “Now, Frodo-lad, you know why you can’t. I’m leaving you all my property, and I can’t stomach the idea that Lobelia would get her greedy claws into everything after I’ve made such an effort to make you the heir.” Bilbo’s hands trembled as he took off his spectacles. “Make an old hobbit truly happy, Frodo. Marry Pearl and raise a flock of bonny babes here, the way I should have. No matter how far afield I wander, it would comfort me to think a Baggins will always be at Bag End. That’s what I want, even more than your company, my darling boy.”
And as Bilbo’s words sunk in, a fierce gem-like flame of possessiveness kindled in Frodo’s heart, a passionate selfishness he had never dreamed was dormant in him and which mirrored Pearl’s own. Yes! I will stay and be master of Bag End, and master of Pearl too! The richest single hobbit in the Shire, with the queen of all hobbit lasses in my bed and heart—if she gives me the chance to make sure of her, to bind her to me for good, I’ll grab it with both hands and no mistake! He felt ashamed of his thoughts immediately, and hastened to lock them away; but they huddled underneath his usual caution, only waiting for an opportune moment to spring back to full life.
He twisted his fingers expertly; Pearl reacted with a groan. Her eyes closed as she felt herself tumbling into the unknown. “Oh, oh, Frodo—” Her body started to shiver uncontrollably. “Oh, Frodo, yes . . .”
He held her as her climax consumed her, pride flaring up that he could bring her such intense pleasure. As she finally grew still, Frodo could feel the bulge in his breeches and shifted a little. Pearl, recognizing what was causing his discomfort, squirmed onto the ground next to him and let her hands stray down, but Frodo caught her wrists with a lazy smile, holding her in a steely grip.
“Oh no, not this time. Isn’t it my birthday? That means I’m giving the presents, not you, and that’s one custom I intend to keep.”
“Are you sure?” The old jauntiness had returned to Pearl’s voice.
“Quite sure, you wicked wench. Now we need to make ourselves presentable again, so we can go back to the party—it’s nearly suppertime.” He climbed to his feet and pulled a reluctant Pearl onto hers. They spent the next few minutes tidying each other’s clothes and smoothing down mussed hair, trading light kisses all the while. At last, Frodo proclaimed they were ready and they started walking down to the Party Field. They had only taken a couple of steps when Pearl clutched at Frodo’s sleeve and pointed above his head.
“Look, Frodo! Gandalf’s fireworks!”
They stopped and craned their heads skywards, enchanted at the spectacle. A great flock of gleaming birds flew through the night sky, their songs caroling as they faded away. Smoke transformed itself into thick green trees that dripped with beautiful flowers shining with unearthly lights; the petals drifted down and winked out, leaving behind the same ravishing perfumes as Pippin’s soap bubbles. Multicolored butterflies sprang up in shimmering fountains to mingle with the trees’ leaves, leaving rainbows in their wake as they darted and danced. A gurgle of laughter escaped from Pearl suddenly.
“What is it?” Frodo asked in surprise.
“I was just thinking what a fabulous sense of timing Gandalf has! D’you suppose he knew what we were up to?” Her whole face was alight with mischief as they began walking again.
Frodo laughed merrily. “Considering what he usually knows, it’s more than likely. Maybe he’ll put on an equally fine show at our wedding.” As the words fell away from him, he wondered what had prompted them.
Pearl stopped dead. “Will there be a wedding?” She could not keep the wistful yearning out of her voice.
Frodo ached with the desire to tell Pearl everything, to finally unburden himself of the secret he had unwillingly carried these many months and to bring her the reassurance she needed. But prudence won out one last time. He said merely, “Of course there will be. Things can change quickly—just wait and see, I promise.” He kissed her gently.
“Yes, you’re right.” Her smile was almost as luminous as the sparks fluttering around her.
They kept their faces turned up as they walked, watching eagerly as rockets became eagles and swans, ships and spears; a great storm thundered and sent golden rain showering earthwards. As the Party Field came into sight, a huge smoky mountain took shape over them, and green and scarlet flames sprouted from its summit.
“Watch this,” Frodo whispered to the entranced Pearl.
A crimson dragon shot through with gold leapt out from the flames, his eyes glaring threateningly and his jaws spitting fire. He whizzed over the heads of the ducking hobbits, did three perfect somersaults, and exploded with a loud boom, leaving a ball of red jewels floating in the air. Above the noise, Frodo and Pearl could hear Bilbo call, “That is the signal for supper!" The entire crowd erupted into applause and cheering as they jumped to their feet, thoroughly impressed with Gandalf’s artistry and beyond anxious to rush to the supper tables..
“Now we will be late,” Frodo said. They took each other’s hand and dashed for the gate, flushed with laughter and contentment.
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