Thrice Returned

by Nefertiti

Summary: Gandalf and Frodo seize an opportunity to be alone during the journey through Moria, and Frodo expresses his fears.

Author's note: Book-based. The action takes place early on the morning of January 15, 3019, the day of Gandalf's battle with the Balrog, the Fellowship's escape from Moria, and their journey to Lórien. It fits into Volume I, Book Two, Chapter iv, "A Journey in the Dark," immediately after Frodo has his dream of seeing Gollum's luminous eyes and before the passage "He woke and found that the others were speaking softly near him."

Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to these characters; this story is offered purely for the enjoyment of fans

This series takes its name from my sequel to Poncing Ponies' lovely story, "Twice Given." As always, my thanks to her for welcoming a sequel by another hand and being so encouraging. Many thanks also to Elanor for betaing, encouragement, wonderful suggestions, and engrossing wizard-slash discussions. Without her, this series would most likely never have developed past being a sequel.

Part 6: Stealing Away in Moria

Gandalf was lying awake in the great hall of the Dwarrowdelf. It had occurred to him as soon as the Fellowship had reached that hall that it might finally provide an opportunity for him and Frodo to slip away for a few precious moments alone together without endangering either themselves or the rest of the group. In that great open space they could move far away enough not to be heard but still to be within earshot if an alarm was raised by the others. The great columns made it easy for the wizard and hobbit to avoid becoming lost, providing they went straight along one row. They would never be quite out of sight of the faint glow of Gandalf's staff-which, as the sole source of light for the group, he would of course leave with the others.

He hardly would have liked to broach the subject of his and Frodo's departure to just any member of the group, but Aragorn was on guard. He was not likely to tease or express disapproval-and Gandalf trusted him as a watchman as much as he trusted himself.

It had been exactly three weeks since they left Rivendell. Recalling his and Frodo's last night together there, Gandalf shifted uneasily and felt himself harden slightly-and not for the first time on the journey. He had also recently noticed Frodo looking at him so forlornly that it wrung his heart. The terror and vastness of Moria had frightened the hobbits more than the others, and Gandalf longed to hold and kiss Frodo. If he could not lift the Burden of the Ring from his lover, at least he could comfort the hobbit a bit. He could wrap his arms tightly around Frodo and make him feel safe for a little while.

Gandalf quietly rose and went over to Aragorn, whispering that he wanted to take Frodo a bit apart from the group. Aragorn smiled slightly and nodded, then pointedly surveyed the darkness in the opposite direction as Gandalf moved and knelt beside Frodo. He lowered his head to brush his lips against the hobbit's ear. Frodo moved and gave a little moan, leaving no doubt that fear and fatigue had not entirely dulled his desire. Gandalf smiled sadly. He vividly recalled how Frodo used to make that same drowsy, languorous little moan when they would sleep late at Bag End, and the wizard would gently caress him into both waking and arousal. The sound triggered an intense longing to be back in the guest bed with the hobbit, and the feeling was almost as physical as hunger or thirst. Frodo turned over slightly, putting one hand out as if expecting to find the wizard lying beside him. Gandalf sighed and softly pressed his fingers over Frodo's lips, whispering very quietly, "Come with me, Frodo. At last I think we have a chance to steal away by ourselves for a short while."

In answer Frodo put one arm around Gandalf's neck and pulled himself up to push his mouth against the wizard's. After a brief, eager duel of tongues, Frodo rose, and they slipped quietly from the little pool of light cast by the staff, which leaned against the wall near Aragorn. The Ranger glanced at them to note in which direction they went, then returned to his slow survey of the surrounding gloom.

Gandalf and Frodo could see better in the dark than could any of the others-Frodo as a result of the Morgul blade's wound, Gandalf as part of his powers as a wizard. Even so, as they left the dim glow behind, they had to feel their way from one column base to the next in a straight row, finally moving in behind the fifth one. The staff cast a dim light in the corridor they had just left, but the space where they now stood was utterly dark.

Gandalf had kept his hand on Frodo's shoulder, and he whispered, "We are far enough now that the others will not hear us-I hope." He knelt and pulled Frodo to himself, guiding the hobbit's warm lips to his own. After such a long abstinence, they were both rapidly aroused, clinging closely and clutching at each other's bodies as they ravenously kissed with wide open mouths. With a great effort, they suppressed the sounds that they would ordinarily have been drawing from each other by that point, and their gasps and faint, stifled moans could only have been heard by someone close by.

Finally they ended the kiss, and Frodo ran his hands down Gandalf's beard. "You smell of pipeweed again. It's a little scent of home. You had lost that recently."

"Yes, getting a chance to smoke again was a great relief-but nothing like what I hope we will be able to give each other now!"

He began to tongue the hobbit's neck and nibble at his ears, cupping one hand around Frodo's bottom to pull him harder against himself and stroking his erection with the other. Frodo caught his breath and snorted softly. Suddenly, through a haze of passion, he remembered the mithril shirt. It seemed silly not to be able to tell Gandalf about it, but he had promised Bilbo to keep it a secret from absolutely everyone. His tunic, inner jacket, and thick outer jacket had prevented the wizard from noticing it during their restrained embraces and casual caresses on the journey, and he had always taken great care when washing to avoid letting anyone see it. Now, though, Gandalf would almost certainly try to touch his nipples. Frodo tried to think how he could plausibly avoid that, since ordinarily he would have welcomed such attentions.

"It's too cold to undress," Frodo said, and indeed his teeth were almost chattering. "How are we going to do it?"

Gandalf replied, "However we do it, do you think you can be quiet, even at the end?"

"Well, I never have been quiet when you've made me come-but if that's what it takes now, then I must."

"All right then. I would love to take you in my mouth and feel your mouth on me. But it would be quite awkward and uncomfortable on this hard floor-my knees are protesting already. And frankly, not having had a chance to wash in four days, neither of us might enjoy that experience as much as usual. Besides, seeing it happen is half the pleasure!"

"Well, hardly half!"

"All right, all right, more like, shall we say, between one eighth and one ninth the pleasure. Stop splitting hairs, my sweet, silly hobbit, and come over here with me!"

Gandalf stood up and groped until he found the nearby column, then sank to sit with his back against its base. He moved Frodo to straddle his upper thighs. With the hobbit's knees bent and his feet on either side, their trouser-fronts were pressed tightly together. Frodo moaned softly as he felt his own swollen member rub against Gandalf's hard bulge.

"No louder than that, remember, Frodo," Gandalf whispered, running his fingers up Frodo's arms to cup his head in both hands and pull him in for another wet, deep kiss. Frodo began to thrust his hips, rubbing his throbbing erection against the wizard's. Without breaking the kiss, Gandalf reached down and unlaced their trousers. As he did so, Frodo slid his hands up under Gandalf's beard and undid the top buttons of his heavy cloak and the woolen shirt underneath, spreading them slightly open.

Gandalf brought out their erections, raising them to lie together between their bellies. Frodo gulped, suppressing his automatic impulse to groan loudly as the contact sent sparks of pleasure through him. He recommenced thrusting, now more eagerly, with short, hard twitches of his hips as he pressed himself forward against the wizard's body. His cock's tip rubbed against the prominent veins of Gandalf's shaft, causing them both to gasp and clench their teeth. Suddenly Frodo felt the wizard's hands slide to the bottom of his jacket.

"What are you doing?" he whispered, slowing his movements.

"What do you think?" the wizard responded, with a little puff of laughter. "I may not be able to see those sweet little nipples of yours, but I certainly want to feel them. I have greatly missed them since we left Rivendell."

Frodo stammered, "No! I don't . . . I mean, your hands are freezing! I don't want them against my bare skin, thank you very much! Anyway, you can't reach my chest with your mouth, not sitting like this-whereas I am in a perfect position." He brushed Gandalf's beard aside. "Remember our old game, 'find the nipple'?"

Gandalf chuckled softly. "Of course! I highly approve of your reviving that very entertaining pastime."

Frodo began to feel his way across the wizard's chest with his fingers. "I'm afraid this time it's all too real a game. Oh, yes, here's one . . ." He rolled it between two fingers, " . . . and here's the other." He fastened his open mouth against it, rubbing and flicking it with his tongue. This time it was Gandalf who uttered little strangled sounds and gasps, struggling to avoid making considerably more noise. His hands slid down Frodo's back to his buttocks, kneading them hard with his long fingers spread wide around them. He pulled the hobbit's hips against himself in time to Frodo's movements, intensifying the pressure of the increasingly insistent thrusts.

Frodo threw his head back, pinching both of Gandalf's nipples hard. This caused the wizard to buck beneath him, grinding upward to meet his pumping hips. When the wizard sensed that Frodo was nearing a complete loss of control, he pressed the end of one finger against the hobbit's lower lip. At once Frodo gave a sharp gasp and pulled it as far into his mouth as he could, sucking on it in time to his sharp jabs against Gandalf's cock and belly. Gandalf stroked Frodo's cheek with his fingers and slid his other hand down between the hobbit's thighs, until he felt the soft roundness of his balls, then tickled them gently as Frodo thrashed frantically against him. Gandalf felt his own climax about to sweep over him, and he bit his lower lip. At the last possible moment his hand left Frodo's crotch and moved to pull both their erections slightly to one side. When they came, almost simultaneously, the spurts arced invisibly out and down onto the cold, bare stone. Gandalf's finger somewhat stifled Frodo's moans, but neither could entirely suppress his reaction to their fulfillment after such a long enforced separation. Finally Frodo slowly relaxed and lay panting on Gandalf's heaving chest, and they embraced tightly, feeling their hearts pounding against each other.

Gandalf whispered, "Oh, well, if Aragorn could hear that, at least he'll be discreet about it. I'm just grateful that neither Pippin nor Merry is on guard."

The wizard fell silent again, and Frodo lay contentedly against him, nuzzling into his beard, which warmed his cold nose delightfully. Suddenly he felt Gandalf trembling-and clearly not just with cold post-coital reaction. Frodo felt suddenly fearful. "What is it? Did you hear something?"

There was a long silence, and Gandalf finally whispered, "No . . . I felt the Ring . . . luring me."

Frodo gasped in dismay. "Tell me . .. how? What did it do? Did it . . . show you things?"

"Yes, visions. The same things it has shown me before. I did not tell you, but it happened in June, when I was last with you in Bag End. Vivid images of how I could take the Ring to Mordor myself, how I could destroy it-how grateful everyone would be-especially you. It seems so real, and yet I realize full well that I would never get close to Mount Doom without succumbing to it. Just the act of taking it from you now would show that I am too vulnerable to its power ever to be able to destroy it. What I hate most is that it holds you out as bait: how I could be with you afterward, for a long time, visions of us together in the Shire. You in bed, so happy, so eager to do anything for me. No burden left, no tasks to take me away from you."

The wizard paused briefly. "It's rather ironic that the Ring has to tempt me by urging me to destroy it. I suppose I'm lucky in a way. I pose the Ring something of a dilemma. On the one hand the Ring knows that my great aim is to destroy it. That is the only reason why I would take it to begin with, and therefore it deceives me into believing I could do that. On the other hand, the Ring's primal lure, the desire to possess and keep it, is so great and fascinating that the very idea of destroying it becomes appalling to me and I dread to take it for that purpose. My reason for taking it would be my reason for rejecting it! But each time it becomes more difficult to remember the destroying part-only the pleasures afterward and the power I would gain."

He sighed. "We probably should not have slipped away like this. Clearly the Ring's temptation is growing, and it affects me more when I am so close to you and you have it on your person. I should have waited until we got out of here, to a safer place, where you can hide the Ring while we make love, as you did in Bag End. And we shall be in a safe place, soon, I hope. A wonderful Elven enclave not far from here where I am always welcome and where we can rest and recover from our hardships. There will be delicious food-enough even for hobbits!-and perfect safety, and we shall, my dearest Frodo, be able to sleep together comfortably and in privacy. Then we won't have to fumble about in the dark and pleasure each other so clumsily and quickly."

"Mmmm. I can't wait. And we won't be shivering and knocking each other in the eye with our elbows."

They laughed, but then Gandalf became serious again. "Yes, we probably should have waited. But I must admit, my desire for you was growing each day, and I so wanted to please you. For the last few days you have been looking at me with such a desperate gaze."

Frodo swallowed hard. "I've desired you, too, of course, but I . . . I've looked at you for other reasons, too. I'm afraid for you."

"What do you mean?"

"Aren't you worried about what Aragorn said?"

"I hadn't thought about it. He probably said that because we were cold and frightened and hunted. Of course he would feel a sense of danger."

"But why for you especially? And what about the hammering we heard in the depths?"

Gandalf felt for his cheek and stroked it. "That was many miles back, in an altogether different part of the Mines. With luck, we have left whatever it was behind. We have certainly not heard it since, have we?"

"No, but I'm still worried."

Gandalf smiled but realized that Frodo could not see it. He ran his fingers through the hobbit's curls and hugged him tighter. "Frodo, we have just finally had the chance to be together more intimately than at any other time since Rivendell-and now we are comparatively close to the East Gate. Let us be hopeful! Besides, even if I saw very real dangers on all sides, what can we do but go on? We cannot turn back and traverse Moria again! Have you an alternate plan, Frodo?"

The hobbit replied in a very quiet whisper, "No . . . but . . ."

"But what?"

"Aren't you ever afraid? For yourself, I mean?"

"At times, yes. But if I let that hold me back from doing what must be done, our goals would never be achieved."

Frodo sighed and clutched Gandalf tightly around the neck. Gandalf moved his lips over the hobbit's cheek and tried to divert his train of thought. "What's wrong now? Don't tell me you want more, you randy little thing!"

Frodo laughed reluctantly. "No, it's not that. I'll wait for the safe place you told me about-and the privacy. No, it's just . . . I think sometimes you're too brave for your own good."

Gandalf stroked his back gently. "Frodo, I have managed to survive in Middle-earth for hundreds of years now-and I have done some very dangerous things in that time. Things that frighten me now, when I look back on them, more than they did then. Do not worry. I imagine that I shall go on surviving."

Frodo tried not to sound too frightened. "Just see that you do, my dear wizard. I . . . I could not go on without you-not on the Quest, not . . . not at all."

Gandalf was silent for a moment, then took Frodo firmly by the shoulders. Frodo was glad that he could not see the wizard's face, for he suspected that it wore a daunting frown. "Frodo, you must not say such things! I have no intention of . . . of leaving you. But were that to happen, for any reason, you must go on!" His voice remained quiet, but Frodo could hear how disturbed he was. "Promise me, Frodo! If someday I am not . . . not with you any more, you must not give up. If you did, my greatest task in Middle-earth would fail and indeed that would make a mockery of all my other accomplishments. I realize that there is only a slim chance that the Quest will succeed in any case-but you are the one providing that chance. You must promise me to carry on no matter what. Trust in Aragorn as you would in me!"

Frodo was nearly in tears. "Gandalf, don't be upset with me! I can't bear it! I promise, I'll do whatever I can to carry through the Quest, even . . . even," he paused, struggling to draw a deep breath. He felt suddenly suffocated by the dark. "Even if you're not there. But you will be, Gandalf, I'm sure you're right. We'll be in this safe place that you know of, and we'll sleep in privacy, as you say, and make love comfortably, for hours. I'm sure being there will raise my courage. It's just that this place is so frightening."

As he finished speaking, he wondered why he was suddenly reassuring the wizard. Could the Ring be prompting him? Here he had begun by trying to warn Gandalf to be more careful for his own sake-and now he was ending by telling Gandalf that everything would be well. He was still frightened, but he could no longer bring himself to beg Gandalf to be careful. He had already upset his lover once. They both fell silent, kissing and caressing quietly for a few minutes.

Finally Gandalf murmured, "Well, this was a rather sorry excuse for lovemaking, wasn't it?" They laughed quietly.

"It was a great deal better than not doing it at all, you must admit."

"Oh, yes! It just proves that the worst sex I could have with you is still marvelous. Well, my dearest Frodo, it sounds to me as if you are getting sleepy, and I could use a short nap before we move on again. This will be a long, difficult day, even if we manage to get out of Moria without wrong turnings or misadventures. And we should reassure Aragorn that we have not lost our way. Let's go."

They rose and moved quietly back toward the light. Aragorn greeted them with a nod, and Gandalf put Frodo to bed, kissing his cheek. He sat looking at the beautiful hobbit as he drifted off to sleep, thinking of all the ways he would be able to pamper Frodo in Lórien. He could feed him exquisite little treats, and there would be Elven music. They could take long walks through the mallorn groves. The wizard was not sure how long they would stay in the Golden Wood. Weeks, perhaps. Long nights of lovemaking and sleep-and security. All that could begin as soon as tonight, he thought with a wistful smile. "More chances for Frodo to tease me about the 'beautiful Elves,'" he thought with a fond little grin.

The wizard looked up and saw a tiny grey hint of dawn in a shaft high overhead. He smiled. Good, he was right about where they were. Yes, that meant that they might well be in Lórien by tonight. A stay there, sheltered by that land's safety and power, should, as Frodo had said, help them all regain their will and courage. Galadriel and Celeborn would surely be able to provide ideas about resisting the Ring and surviving the dangers of Mordor. He smiled slightly and sat savoring the lingering pleasure of his and Frodo's lovemaking that suffused his body.

Then, however, Frodo's frightened warning came back to him: "I think sometimes you're too brave for your own good." He smiled more broadly. They had in fact been remarkably lucky in Moria, with most indications suggesting that the Mines, or at least most of them, were abandoned by friend and foe alike. He would be as careful as he always was, and certainly he intended to take no unnecessary risks-only to protect the others if they were endangered, and that seemed increasingly unlikely until they were well south of Lórien. With a final glance at his sleeping hobbit, Gandalf rolled himself in his blanket and cloak to get a last half-hour of sleep before they moved on towards the East Gate.

TBC in "Thrice Returned #7: Waking in Ithilien"

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