In Moria

by Poncing Ponies

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters and make no money from them.

Moria was dark. So deep underground and without light that Frodo felt as if he was constantly walking toward a big, black wall, just waiting to have his nose squashed. The feeling that he was heading for disaster intensified as they went on, since Frodo's wound from the Morgul blade gave

him an acute awareness of the subtle shadows chasing behind and waiting ahead.

The only comfort was the light emitted by Gandalf's staff, weak as the reflections of stars in a wide pool. In it, Frodo could see the Wizard's mouth beneath the broad rim of his hat as he muttered to himself (and perhaps Gimli, beside him), his lips turned downward.

"I have no recollection of this place!" Gandalf said in exasperation, stopping before a set of three corridors.

At this, the exhausted party settled down to rest and wait until their guide could discern the way. Frodo sat down next to Gandalf on a large stone boulder (though the thoughtful manner in which Gandalf perched there, brows furrowed over his hooked nose, reminded Frodo of a brooding carrion bird). Half-dreaming, Frodo listened to the lulling sounds of camp being made by the Fellowship: the soft clatter of Hobbiton-made dishes cleaned with a dry rag, the hum of Men greasing their swords and the even whispering of Legolas' Elven breath.

Pippin came over to tug on Frodo's sleeve, yawning hugely. "Well, Merry says I have to go to bed now. Are you staying here? Are you sleeping with Gandalf?"

Frodo blinked. Coming back to himself, he realized he had been staring blankly at Gandalf for a while and forgot to offer any helpful suggestions about the diverging paths. Frodo blushed, he hugged Pippin good night, and told Pippin to go quietly to bed and let him be. "I am going to keep Gandalf company for a little longer," he said.

Gandalf turned to Frodo with disapproval. "And just how long are you planning on doing that? Having a soggy, exhausted Hobbit shivering in the cold next to me doesn't help me to remember the way, you know."

Frodo raised his eyes, and when Gandalf saw that they were watery bright and frightened, his tone softened instantly.

"Are you all right? Are you tired?" he asked, idly patting the Hobbit on his hunched shoulders. "Sam's had your bed made and has been warming it for you for a while. And now he's fallen asleep in it. Listen to him, every snore a subtle objection to your staying up. Go join him, your eyes are running like Loudwater."

Frodo shook his head and his voice croaked when he replied. "It is not fatigue that troubles me." And Frodo lowered his head, turning away to fix his eyes on one of the doors. The hallway beyond looked fathomlessly deep and so black, as if once you walked inside you would never come out again. He imagined Gandalf walking into that shaft and the light he carried dimming as he explored further, until it was extinguished. The hobbit gave a frightened moan at the horrible prospect of losing Gandalf just when Frodo needed him most.

Gandalf blinked, lifting Frodo's chin with his index finger and leaning in close to inspect Frodo's face. The Ringbearer looked back at him with a pale and tense expression, and the ruddiness on his cheekbones and patches of damp by his nose offered a telling tale.

"Frodo, you have been crying," Gandalf remarked unhappily. "What is the matter? Is it the Morgul wound, are you still hurting?"

Before Frodo had a chance to deny or affirm his guesses, Gandalf slipped his hand beneath Frodo's collar, going boldly underneath the mithril vest and touching the tender flesh on the side of Frodo's shoulder.

Frodo took a sharp breath and closed his eyes, wondering to himself that it felt as if Gandalf had touched the scar there many times. But of course he had. Frodo's face warmed. Gandalf must know his body very well by now, having cared for him, along with Elrond and Sam in Rivendell.

Gandalf saw the sudden flush of colour in Frodo's cheeks and coughed awkwardly. "I am only going to try a little trick. I might have warned you, but I was too eager." The wizard clamped his mouth shut, as that did not come out phrased as he had intended. He decided his tongue was better used for speaking words of power than making untidy explanations to sensitive young Hobbits.

Frodo gasped as he felt a soothing heat come through Gandalf's palm and spread into his chilled muscles. Frodo's head fell against Gandalf's chest as he relaxed with a sigh under the gentle application of magic. Gandalf murmured the last words of a healing charm and withdrew his hand, but Frodo seemed disinclined to be dislodged from his lap.

What had been troubling Frodo was that Gandalf, great and powerful as he was, did not seem to notice the danger and shadow that had converged about the wizard like a great clinging smog, trying to smudge him with darkness, the moment they had set foot in Moria. But Frodo did--he felt disquiet, like cold worms wriggling against his Morgul wound, trying to thread right through his heart. It made him reckless with fear. Frodo clutched at Gandalf, hugging him, and set his mind to not crying, because he could not explain his feelings to Gandalf without serious embarrassment.

Gandalf enjoyed the gesture, smiling down at the fleecy brown mop tucked beneath his chin, until Frodo began to nuzzling at his throat. This Gandalf judged too intimate, and gently he pushed Frodo away. Through strongly drawn brows, Frodo scowled up at the ancient Wizard fiercely,

with a huff he slipped off Gandalf's lap and stood up. Yet he could not go far, and opted to sit on the next rock, shivering on top of its chilled surface. Gandalf peeked around at the camp behind them and found Sam, Merry and Pippin snoring in close proximity, Boromir and Gimli on either side of them, with Legolas and Aragorn on watch. No one noticed what passed between him and Frodo, and for that the wizard was grateful. With a sigh Gandalf stood up from his own stony seat. "I suppose glaring at the passes won't help. I am going to investigate that one on the right. Would you like to come with me?"

Frodo took a moment to bite his lips, and struggling with something in his heart, he sighed and nodded, hopping off his icy dais and taking Gandalf's hand. "So that I won't get lost, what with you being so tight with the light," Frodo said.

Gandalf made no comment except for squeezing Frodo's hand gently as he led the Hobbit through one of the three doorways. The passage was dark and draped all over with cobwebs.

They walked about ten paces, and Gandalf was able to discern through instinct and his knowledge of Dwarven design that this was not a perilous passage--or a fruitful one, as the narrow dark tunnel led to a dead end. At this, Gandalf saw his chance and took it. Tugging Frodo's hand, Gandalf pulled him into an alcove in the tunnel, where they squeezed close to one another in a safe crevice. Frodo's breath hitched loudly in his throat, and then suddenly the Hobbit was wriggling violently in Gandalf's grasp. The wizard felt busy hands tangling in his beard, strong feet rubbing against his upper thighs and a small soft mouth breathing hard against his neck. Gandalf groaned deep in his chest and pressed himself against Frodo to still him.

"Control yourself!" hissed Gandalf. "That is quite enough. For the sake of our friendship, stop this nonsense and madness. I cannot bear to make you sad, but I also cannot give you what you think you want, my dearest Frodo."

Frodo stilled abruptly and a dreadful silence filled the tunnel until Frodo spoke in a plaintive huff. "I thought, when you dragged me here, you wanted to ... but I see I mistook you. But I am not sorry I thought so."

Gandalf heard the sincerely unapologetic words and grumbled, "You were never this troublesome in the Shire. That journey to Rivendell must have really shaken your formerly remarkable wits. Because this is insanity that has overtaken you."

"I just thought, I could, you know ..." Frodo's voice came small and uncertain in the dark, the softest retort Gandalf had ever heard. ". .. kiss you, Gandalf."

"Whilst what I wanted was to have a word with you without representatives of the 'three races' being present. And kiss me! What gave you that extraordinary notion?" Gandalf reached out in the dark and groped for Frodo. "Now where are you? Have you slipped off in shame already?"

"Here," Frodo whispered, so faintly that Gandalf could not discern which corner of the small alcove he was in, only know that Frodo was close enough for Gandalf's cheek to feel the heat and moisture of his breath, which suddenly, tantalizingly, had him surrounded. "Please do not ... please, Gandalf."

The soft, aimless plea made Gandalf flinch and feel a sting of sympathetic pain in his chest. "Do not what, Frodo?" He added as gently as he could, "I am not angry with you."

"I do not care if you are furious with me or if you have decided that I turn your stomach, I have made up my mind to do this when I stepped into this drafty tunnel." Frodo's courage once gathered was formidable. His uncle would be proud, thought Gandalf. And with that thought came a deep grimace at what Bilbo would think of this conversation in the dark with his favourite nephew, all (presumably) pink and in high passion. It was a good thing Bilbo had given away Sting.

Frodo, stumbling over his words a little, but determined, continued, "I will tell you my ... feelings ... and ... and ravish you, and that is that, Gandalf!"

Gandalf was glad of the cold rock propping his back and his trusted staff in his hands. "You are not Aragorn with his impressive sword, Frodo. Hobbits do not ravish, they ... nibble ... at best!" Then he almost laughed at the ridiculous censure. By Elbereth, was he being courted? Gandalf could not remember encountering the rites and rituals of that sort of behaviour in this Age, although he suspected that Frodo had not ever done so, judging by his improvisational approach.

"You are laughing," Frodo's voice came low and sulky. "Of all the reactions I expected, that is most ... impolite. I am trying seriously to proposition you. I shan't stand for it."

Gandalf hissed at a vicious little tug on his beard. "And you think, my brave Ringbearer, that I, Gandalf the Grey, ... " a warm glow bloomed from his staff and he drew to his full height suddenly appearing very tall and stern. "... would stand to be cornered and then pawed at like a Shire-Lass?"

Frodo's large eyes seemed blue and liquid in the weak light. Gandalf regretted the illumination instantly as he was besieged by the bright hope on Frodo's face, his softly parted lips, Frodo was blushing the shade of Hobbiton orchard-apples and his hands were still in Gandalf's beard, hopelessly entangled.

Frodo pulled hard and surged onto the tips of his toes. "Yes," he murmured, touching his lips to Gandalf's astonished mouth, licking quickly at the thin line of under-lip, discovering it was slightly parched. He had to be fast and sneaky. For all Frodo knew, this might be the first and only time he would be allowed to kiss Gandalf. But after the greedy little nip, Gandalf simply froze. Frodo's heart swelled achingly in his ribcage. Gandalf was rooted to the spot like an old walnut tree. By pressing his hand on Gandalf's torso, Frodo could just detect a shallow breath being slowly exhaled. he slipped his other arm around Gandalf's strong neck and hoisted himself upward, legs wrapping around his waist (a trick Frodo learnt from many days spent climbing trees in the apple orchard) again kissing the Wizard's mouth, tickling his tongue along the tight seam.

"Frodo," Gandalf started to say, but could not continue, for now they were open to one another and then deep in each other's mouths. And all words and justifications and reasoning and declarations became redundant, and not even this wisest of men could deny in that instant of kissing, petting and moans exchanged in their shared breaths, that he, Gandalf the guide, and Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer held an affection so exalted for each other that it was perhaps, very likely, now evidently, love.

Frodo admitted his fears to Gandalf. "I have felt frightened and uneasy the further we journeyed in Moria, to see you step ahead of the strongest or quickest of us into darkness and danger. You guide us into and through great peril, always letting the shadows touch you first. By giving light to us in this doomed palace, you have conjured in me fire, coaxed from the first sparks of child-hood admiration." Frodo did not think it a fine speech, but it would suffice and it was honest. He clambered down and rested his head against Gandalf's abdomen. "Which I will hold, secret and safe, till journey's end."

Gandalf reached down and ran his fingers through Frodo's curls, caressing the shape of skull underneath, a little surprised when that did not feel at all enough. Abandoning his staff, Gandalf knelt down and clasped Frodo tightly, rubbing at the soft skin on the back of Frodo's neck, burying his face in Frodo's chest. He felt the shape of the Ring underneath the layers of cloak, coat and vest, but it seemed nothing but dumb metal and had lost all its allure.

"It will be all right," Gandalf said with a surge of relief. Frodo grinned at him, and Gandalf laughed.

In the joy of their final kiss, Frodo heard his heart pump: thump, doom, thump, doom, DOOM. Steady and loud and louder.

Gandalf pressed his hands to Frodo's ears as he smothered his beloved Hobbit with desperate strokes of tongue and hands, savouring and shivering, hoping Frodo did not hear the sound of the Balrog waking in the belly of Moria.