Circle of Love

by Auntkimby35 & Lizmybit

The shadows had already begun to lengthen when Mayor Gamgee approached the front gate of Bag End. It was a crisp autumn evening, and unusually chilly, so he drew his elven cloak tighter around his shoulders. The setting sun was casting the sky with pink and purple hues as the last rays of sunlight glimmered among the golden leaves of the mallorn tree in the party field, setting it ablaze. He stepped through the front gate, and heard the door click shut behind him.

As he climbed the stone steps Sam could hear the shouts of his children happily at play inside the smial. As he reached for the door it suddenly sprung open, and a small figure hit him squarely in the chest. "Oi!" Sam exclaimed and peered down into his seven-year-old son Pippin's face.The lad seemed quite unsurprised by Sam's presence in the doorway.

"Hullo Da! I didn't think you be home for at least an hour yet." Pippin grinned widely, revealing a missing front tooth. Sam stared down at the young hobbit and asked with an answering grin, "Aye, I figured' that! Where are you off to in such a hurry lad?"

"Merry and I are playin hide-and-seek! I gotta go Da, he's already counted to 25, an’ I’ve only got to 50 to hide!" From somewhere inside the house Sam could hear the voice of young Merry loudly counting “26…27…28…”
Pippin shrieked and quickly scooted around Sam and ran out the front door. Sam stood for a moment and watched his son run around the side of the house. Pippin-lad bore an uncanny resemblance to Peregrine Took, Thain of Tuckborough. Sam and Rose had named him well; he was every bit the restless imp that the elder Pippin had been as a child. Sam hoped his son would grow up to be as fine as a hobbit as the Thain.

Sam turned and attempted to enter once more and heard a loud cry: “…50! Ready or not here I come!" Sam heard fast-approaching feet, and quickly stepped aside as the brown-clad blur that was Merry-lad dashed past him. But Sam deftly caught his second son by the arm and admonished him, "Now, lad, what did your mother tell you 'bout runnin' indoors?"
Merry yelped with surprise at the sudden arrest of his flight, and raised startled eyes to his father’s. "Hullo Da!" Merry said breathlessly, we weren't 'spectin you for a least an hour!"

"Aye, so I've been told," replied Sam with a good-natured sigh. "Don't anyone look out the door before chargin' through it anymore?" he added, as he playfully poked Merry-lad in the ribs.

"So Pip's been this way then?" Merry giggled. "Which way did he go Da? Oh never mind, you won't tell me anyway! I'll find him, I always do." Merry flew out the front door after his brother, not waiting for a response from Sam.

Sam warily peered through the door of Bag End and looked for any more children that might catapult out of nowhere. When he was fairly satisfied that the coast was clear, he stepped in through the door and into the sitting room. His bemused gaze fell upon a myriad of toys – colorful wooden blocks, bright balls, and several rag dolls, including one that had seen better days and was missing an eye. Sam sighed as he bent to pick up the toys. Just then Rosie-lass appeared in the doorway.

"Hullo Da, I was just coming to clean those up. I had to give Hammie and Daisy a bath early today,as I’m afraid they discovered how to make mudpies." Rose giggled. "Oh Da you should have seen them, they were covered with mud from head to toe." She and Sam exchanged a kiss on the cheek, and then she removed the one-eyed doll from his hands.
"I'll take care of this, you go wash up; Ellie has dinner just about ready." Rose turned and started picking up the toys and remarked, "I just realized that you're home early; we didn't expect you for at least an hour."

"I hadn’t planned it that way, but I reckon I should do it more often so I have a better idea of what goes on here whilst I’m out!” Sam laughed. "Where’s the rest of the family, me dear? I’ve already encountered Merry-lad and Pippin-lad.”

"Last I saw him, Frodo-lad is in your study reading; Elanor and Goldie are in the kitchen; Hamfast and Daisy are locked up for safe keeping in the playroom as I don't want them getting dirty again before supper; Primrose has been fed and put to bed. Mum is feeling a bit tired this afternoon so Ellie and I told her to take a rest and we would see to the children and to dinner.” Rosie-lass eyed her father critically. “You’re near as grubby as Hammie and Daisy were, Da; you’d best clean up too before you go in to see Mummy.”
Sam laughed. "Aye, I guess I am, ya know I'm always finding some soil to bury my hands into.” He laid a gentle hand on his daughter’s cheek and said tenderly, “You’re a wonderful help around the house, dear lass. You grow more like your mother every day.”
Rosie-lass turned pink with pleasure. “Oh, Da, I’ve a long way to go to catch up to Mum…but that was very kind of you to say!” She turned quickly and resumed picking up the toys, and Sam proceeded down the hallway to wash up before he went in to see to Rosie.

When Sam reached his study-he still did not think of it as “his” study- he looked inside to see Frodo-lad sitting at the desk reading, his brow furrowed in concentration. Sam looked around the messy room piled with books and papers. It had changed ownership three times over the years-first Mr. Bilbo’s, and then Mr. Frodo’s, and now it was Sam’s- but was still largely unchanged in appearance. But Samwise could not think of it as “his” study; after all, he wasn't a book-learned hobbit as Frodo and Bilbo had been. Except for his occasional entries in the Red Book, Sam did not do much “studying”. He and Rosie had often discussed packing up the books and papers and putting them away in storage. But both knew things would be left exactly as Mr. Frodo had left them nearly twenty years earlier.
Sam turned his gaze from his eldest son and toward the corner coat rack where Frodo's smoking jacket hung, with the pipe still in the pocket. Sam guessed Frodo would not have much use for it in Valinor, but Sam was glad that he had left it behind. Sam crossed the room and lifted the jacket from its hook, and the familiar scent of Frodo's favorite pipe tobacco filled Sam's senses. Once in a great while, when the rest of the family had gone to bed, Sam would sit in the study with the candles lit and hold the jacket as he remembered old times, and hoped that Frodo had found the peace and joy he deserved. It was a great comfort during the times that he especially missed him…and today was one of those times. Today was September 22- Frodo's birthday…

A voice broke into Sam's musings, and he looked up to see Frodo-lad gaze at him with concern as he waited for an answer to a question that Sam had not heard.

"I'm sorry Frodo-lad, what did you say? I weren't listenin."

"I just said that I was surprised to see you home so early."

Sam forced a smile and said "I seemed to have surprised the whole family; I should come home early more often! What are you reading?"

"One of Mr. Bilbo's Elven books, I am having a difficult time with it though. My Elvish isn't what it ought to be. And these textbooks aren't always helpful."

"Well lad, I wish I could help you, but I never learned any Elven letters. Mr. Bilbo taught me my letters, but he never got to teach me any Elvish, nor did Mr. Frodo."

"That's all right Da, I'll get it soon enough, I just have to keep trying. Queen Arwen sends me letters written in the language with the Westron words beneath it for comparison, and that helps me a great deal." Frodo-lad smiled and returned to his book. Sam nodded and left the study. His son watched him go and sighed.
Sam passed Elanor in the hallway as he left the study, and he smiled warmly at his eldest daughter. “How are you, Bright-Eyes?” he asked as he kissed her on the cheek.
“I am well, Da, thank you. Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes but there’s time for you to see Mummy. I’ll stop by before supper to see if she will want a tray or if she will be able to join us in the kitchen.”
“That’s a fine idea, lass,” Sam told her softly, and proceeded down the hallway.
Elanor entered the study. "Frodo, how does Da seem to you?" she asked. She settled into the armchair and curled up with her knees drawn to her chest and the hem of her dress tucked around her toes. “He came home early today so I thought he might be ill.”
"He seems all right, a little sad I think, but then this is always a difficult day for him, as it’s Frodo's birthday. Did you get the cake baked?"

"Aye, I did, but I don't know why we have these parties every year, as it makes Da so sad." Elanor twirled her golden hair between her fingers with an unhappy expression.

"I know Ellie, but I think it helps Da feel better to have these parties, and to celebrate the birthday to help keep Frodo’s memory alive. Da said that Mr. Frodo had a birthday party every year for Bilbo after he left."
"I wonder if Mr. Frodo bakes a cake to remember our Da on his birthday," Elanor said with a trace of bitterness in her voice.

"Ellie," her brother said reprovingly. "Frodo loved our Da very much, or he would not have given him Bag End, or asked him to go to the Havens to see him off."

"I know, but I worry about Da. I just don't think it is healthy for him to brood like this every year," she sighed.
“He’s not brooding, Ellie, he’s just-“
Elanor cut her brother off by saying, "Well, you best put that book away and get cleaned up for dinner. It's almost ready." She stood and left the room as her brother watched her with worry in his eyes.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After Sam had washed up he went into the bedroom to check on Rose. She lay on the bed asleep, her honey-colored hair spread in ringlets on her pillow, and her cheeks a lovely shade of pink. Her delicate hands rested upon her swollen belly; their tenth child was due any day now. Sam thought he had never seen her look more beautiful. He caught his breath, and did not dare to move or to speak, afraid to break the spell he suddenly found himself under. This was a moment he wanted to capture forever. He closed his eyes and thought of how much he loved her; their love grew deeper and their friendship stronger with each passing year. This was his dearest Rosie-lass who had been the object of his affection for so long, now the mother of his children, and his companion for life. How lucky he was! Sam felt he didn't deserve her, but yet she chose him. Out of all the hobbits in the Shire, she loved him! Sam's heart swelled with gratitude, his eyes filled up with tears and he felt a lump rise in his throat.

Despite Sam's effort not to disturb her, Rose became aware of him, and stirred and looked up at him. She said nothing, but smiled at him and stretched her arms out in invitation to join her. Sam smiled and quickly crossed the room into her embrace.

"Hullo my love, home already?" asked Rose as she ran her fingers through his hair.
Sam smiled. “I couldn't bear to be away from my family one more minute. How are you feeling today my love? Rosie-lass said you were especially tired today.” Sam rested his cheek upon her belly, just as the baby responded with a vigorous kick. “Oi, that was quite a kick!" Sam laughed and sat up caressing Rosie's stomach. “That was not very polite, little sir or miss, whichever you might be!”
Rosie giggled, the musical laughter that had first charmed Sam when they were bright-eyed tweenagers. "I am a wee bit tired this afternoon; this baby is strugglin' to get out. He hasn't stopped kickin’ all day!" Rose always referred to the baby as he. She had said she knew it was a boy from the moment she discovered she was with child, and no amount of debate from anyone would change her mind, even though Sam maintained that he was certain the babe was a lass. Sam leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
"I am sorry you are tired, love. Elanor-lass said she would stop by to see if you would want a tray brought, or if you are able to join them in the kitchen. I’ll go see how things are comin’ along and see if she could stand a bit of help.”
Rosie struggled to sit up; her swollen girth made it difficult. “No, my Sam, I’ve spent enough time closeted in this room today. I miss my babies, and I’d prefer to join them at the table…and for your sake as well,” she added softly.

They heard a soft knock at the door, and at Sam’s “Come in, dear!” Elanor entered the bedroom. “Supper is ready, Mummy and Da. Mum, will you come to the kitchen or shall I fix you a tray?"

"We’ll both be there directly, Bright-Eyes,” Sam assured her. “What kind of cake did you bake?”
Elanor lowered her eyes. “I baked a seedcake, and made strawberry tarts for the children that don’t like seedcake,” she said quietly.
“That’s fine, lass,” Sam said gently. “Thank you very much for all your help, Ellie. We do notice it and we appreciate it very much.”
He smiled at her, but Elanor did not return it. She just nodded and left the room, and Sam and Rosie looked at each other, puzzled.
“Have we been askin’ her to do too much lately, do you think?” Sam asked. “She’s the oldest, and so sweet an’ helpful, that sometimes I think she’s not given enough time to do the things she likes to do.”
“I’ve thought of that, myself,” Rosie said. “I’ve noticed she’s been a bit distracted and withdrawn of late, though very sweet and obedient as always.”
“I’ll talk to her tonight after supper,” Sam decided. He offered Rosie his arm, and they walked together toward the kitchen to join their family.

Ellie left her parents’ room with a torrent of emotions racing through her heart.
Her parents loved each other dearly; Elanor knew that. Nine-soon to be ten- children was a testament to that, and the shared hugs and kisses and loving banter, even in front of the children, like lovestruck tweenagers after all these years.
But…HE was still a presence in Bag End. He had been gone for years, but his departure had left a hole in her father’s heart that none of them could fill, not even their mother, and Ellie felt a twist of resentment in her middle. HE had taken so much from her father; her darling father had sacrificed so much for him; and then HE had sailed away, and broken her father’s heart.
Yet they had to sit here tonight, and eat a cake that she had baked in his honor…
It was not right, Elanor cried out inside. It just was not right!
Frodo-lad saw the expression on his beloved older sister’s face; with so many sisters, Frodo-lad was very quick to see when one of them was about to cry.
“Ellie, what is it?” he asked softly. “If you’re tired, sit down and I can help Rosie-lass and Goldie with supper.”
"No, no, Frodo, it’s nothing, nothing at all.”
“I can see that,” he said wryly. But just then their parents entered the room and Elanor hurried to help her younger sisters bring the dishes of steaming food to the table.
Elanor seemed oblivious to the laughter and talk around her, and barely even looked up during Merry and Pippin’s argument over who should get the last serving of mushrooms. Rosie saw her second son quietly lean over and spoon up the mushrooms while Merry and Pippin good-naturedly squabbled over their prize and so did not see their big brother’s actions.
“If you’d not been so greedy, lads, you could have divided them between you,” their mother said, “but now while you were arguing, the mushrooms made their way to your brother’s stomach and now neither of you gets them.”
“Huh?” they cried in unison, and stared accusingly at Frodo-lad, who just smiled at them smugly and produced a tiny but satisfied belch.

After dinner Rosie-lass brought the cake in. Sam tapped his fork against his glass to signal for quiet, and then raised the glass in a toast. The children fell silent and looked up at him, as they picked up their own glasses.
"To Frodo Baggins on his birthday, the most Famousest of Hobbits, in gratitude and love for all you did for this family, and for the Shire,” Sam said quietly but with feeling.
Everyone raised their glass in honor Frodo and drank- all but Elanor, who threw down her napkin and fled from the kitchen.
“Elanor!” Rosie exclaimed. She started to get up, as did Rosie-lass and Frodo, but Sam stopped them.
“No…I think I need to handle this,” he told them all gently. “Rosie-lass and Goldie, you see to clearin’ the table; Merry and Pippin, your turn for the dishes; Frodo-lad, you take Hammie and Daisy to the parlor and see to them until we can all regather an’ I’ll read from the Red Book.”
Silenced and stunned by their oldest sister’s actions, the children moved to obey.
“Sam, don’t be too hard on her,” Rosie said softly with tears in her beautiful eyes. “She’s a child yet, barely in her tweens, and her emotions are all topsy-turvy right now.”
“I know that, my dear…I love our Elanor as much as you do. But I’ve seen this comin’ for a while now, an’ I’ve been meanin’ to talk to her before it came to this. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
He kissed her tenderly and then went in search of his oldest daughter.