by Meneleth

Hobbiton was asleep as Sam slipped out of the door at Bag End. He hopped easily over the low stone wall, avoiding the squeaky front gate that he never got around to fixing. (He could always picture Mr. Bilbo winking and saying that it warned him when callers were coming.) Across the path and down along the grass he walked, his bare feet treading noiselessly. In the hour before dawn all was mere shades of grey, but Sam needed no light to see where he was going.
            At the party tree Sam stopped. He ran a reverent hand along the smooth, silvery trunk and then gently laid his cheek against it. He never told anyone, but sometimes he thought he could feel the heartbeat of the earth in the great tree. Perhaps it was part of the Elven Queen’s gift, held in that magical acorn she’d given him. Sitting down with his back against the trunk, he closed his eyes, picturing in his mind’s eye how swiftly and perfectly the tree had grown.
            Sam sighed, opened his eyes and lit his pipe. He knew what had drawn him to the tree at this early hour. It was a year ago today that Mr. Frodo and the others had departed on the ship from the Grey Havens. Sam loved his family dearly and had become quite active in Hobbiton, but there was always a small ache in his heart for missing Frodo. It was odd, but for some reason he felt closer to Frodo here, at the tree, than anywhere else, even in Bag End. Perhaps it was because Bag End was now Sam’s home with Rosie and the children. But even though everyone in town shared the party tree, only Sam and Frodo had seen groves of mallorns. Only they (with Merry and Pippin, of course) had spent time among the elves, had slept in flets in the trees and had met Galadriel. To the Hobbits here, the tree had been a nine-days wonder - amazing and exotic when it first grew, but now accepted as a matter of fact. To Sam it was a living reminder of all that the four travelers had experienced, suffered and accomplished.
            Dawn had come while he pondered, and now Sam could clearly see the beautiful golden leaves forming a canopy above his head. Here and there lights were springing up in houses, and soon people would be out and about. It would be awkward to be found sitting under the tree; he would have to try to explain what could not be explained. With a final pat on the trunk, Sam rose to his feet and headed for home.