At the birthday party, he thought to himself as we walked along the dark lane towards Bag End, that’d be the perfect time. The tradition had continued, every year, a party was held in honor of Mr. Bilbo. It had been at another birthday party that the whole trouble had begun, and it would be fitting that his announcement be made at a similar celebration. To even the scales, as it were. It had been nearly a year since their return to the Shire and the scars of Saruman had begun to fade. Yet, even though life had fallen back into the normal day to day routine, something was not right, things were not finished, he was not complete. He was happy, most of the time. But, a mood would strike him sometimes. A mood, dim and shadowy, would fall unbidden and those around him would whisper behind their hands about things they could not possibly understand. He had learned to ignore them, for the most part and get on with his work. He couldn’t ignore, however, the empty place he felt beside him. It was there all the time now: when he ate, as he worked, in those last waking moments before sleep claimed him. The missing piece of him taunted as he left the lights of the Bywater behind. It was time to find what he was yearning for and September 22 would be the day.
The big decision made, his steps grew faster, as if by sheer speed he could make the party day arrive sooner. Yes, that would be the day that Sam would ask Rose to marry him.
“Is there something wrong, Sam?,” Frodo asked from his chair before the fire. It was after dinner and Sam was in the kitchen cleaning up from the meal’s preparation. Only he wasn’t. He was standing in the archway, hands filled with dirty dishes, staring blankly out in space. “Sam?”
“Nothing, Mr. Frodo,” Sam answered, scuttling back into the kitchen, “Nothing’s wrong, except my addled brain.”
Smiling, Frodo went back to his book and hot tea. After a few moments, however, he had the distinct feeling that he was being watched. Peering just over the edge of his book, Frodo glimpsed his friend doing just that. Rather intently. “What’s on your mind, Sam?”
Instead of replying, Sam busied himself with stoking the fire. Silently he filled his favorite pipe with Old Toby and sat opposite Frodo. None of this was out of the ordinary. Their evenings were always the same: both would sit quietly, Frodo reading, Sam smoking. Conversation was not a regular occurence, unless an unusual or interesting event had happened in the Shire that day. No, some evenings they would not talk at all until their “Goodnights” and this evening was shaping up to be one of the silent ones. However, as Frodo stole another glance across his book, he could tell that Sam was brooding about something. He closed his book with a slam. “Are you going to tell me?”
Sam blinked several times. “Tell you what, Mr. Frodo?”
“What you have been thinking about since yesterday, that’s what.” Before Sam could deny it, Frodo continued. “I know you too well, Samwise Gamgee, and I know you have something on your mind. Tell me.”
He looked at his friend, hesitated a moment, then sighed with resignation. “It’s just that I’m gonna be sad to leave Bag End, that’s all. I’ve come to be very comfortable here.”
“Leave Bag End? Why would you want to do that?” The thought of Bag End without Sam had never crossed Frodo’s mind. The faithful hobbit had been a part of this house, his life, of his very essence, always, it seemed. Frodo without his Sam? Unthinkable. But, now that the idea had been spoken, it frightened him.
“It just wouldn’t proper,” Sam answered, “I should make a home for just the two of us. There’s a nice little place over by Michael Delving I saw on my last visit. I would still come everyday and tend to your garden, Mr. Frodo, don’t you worry about that. I would never shirk my duty when it came to your garden.”
Frodo was confused. “The two of us?”
“After all, Mr. Bilbo left Bag End to you, Mr. Frodo. I don’t think he meant for a Gamgee to be living here.”
Frodo grew indignant. “Bag End is mine now, Sam. To do with as I choose.”
Looking at Frodo, Sam said, “I know and that’s what I’m saying. There should be Baggins living here. One of those days, if you have a mind to, there’ll be little ones, running these halls, knocking over furniture, making the racket this home was meant to hold.”
Blushing, Frodo turned away. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, think of the future. Not when we was waging a daily war just to remain in the present. The past was constantly pulling him back, down into the despair that left him trembling in the dark. “I’d rather not think about that.”
Sam stood up suddenly, his voice rising, too. “But you should, Mr. Frodo. The thought of you living alone, with no one to look after you, well, I couldn’t stand it.”
“I still don’t understand why we are even discussing you leaving Bag End,” Frodo said, looking up at his friend, “I thought you were happy here.”
“I was. I mean, I am.”
“Then why do you want to leave?,” Frodo asked. He could not keep the pleading and desparate tone out of his voice. He knew he had come to rely on Sam for too much, almost everything, really. He could wash his own dishes, make his own meals, even do the shopping and cleaning by himself. What terrifed him was being left alone. Even now the Ring still haunted him, called to him from his memories. And the only thing that kept him from answering the maddness was always right beside him: Sam. The only soul who fully understood who and what he had become, what he had suffered. “Why do you want to leave me?”
Sam gazed into his friend’s eyes. All of his notions of moving from Bag End evaporated within that blue. It was too soon, he knew now. The pain was still fresh and Frodo’s nightly terrors had not abated. What were you thinking, Samwise!, he mentally berated himself, your place is here.
“I was being selfish, Mr. Frodo, me talking about leaving. Just you forget I ever said anything. Rosie will understand. Now’s not the time. Would you like some more tea?” He didn’t wait for the answer, just grabbed Frodo’s cup and escaped to the kitchen.
Rose? Frodo mused softly, What does she have to do with…
“Sam!” Frodo ran after his friend. “When?”
“When what, Mr. Frodo?”, Sam replied without stopping his task of filling the kettle.
“When is the wedding?”
Sam paused only briefly, then turned to put the pot on the stove. “There isn’t going to be a wedding.”
“Oh, yes there is. And it will be the grandest wedding the Shire has ever seen.”
He hung his head. “There can’t be a wedding, Mr. Frodo. I’m not leaving Bag End. Not leaving you.”
Frodo smiled broadly as tears sprang to his eyes. The love he bore for his Sam was the deepest well within his soul, and he had dipped so many times there that it should have run dry by now. Yet, at moments like this, when his friend showed his unconditional devotion to the wounded hobbit he called friend, the well overflowed and Frodo know he could never fully repay him. “No, you’re not leaving Bag End. But, there will still be a wedding.”
Sam turned around to protest, but Frodo stopped him with his hand. “Bag End is your home, too, Sam. Bring Rose here. Bring Rose home.”
He was truly speechless, his thoughts whirling around each other. The two most important people in his life, here under one roof. He would be able to care and tend them both. Both would have a place in his heart and home.
He was struck by an awful thought just then. Right there in the middle of his happiest moment. “What if she won’t have me? Mr. Frodo, what if she says no?”
Gently guiding his dumbstruck friend to the nearest chair, Frodo finished with the tea. “Oh, she’ll say yes, I’m sure of it. For who could say not to Samwise the Brave?”
“Don’t tease me, Mr. Frodo. I’m truly worried now.”
Frodo looked out the kitchen window to the Party Field across the way. Bittersweet memories flooded back to him. “At Bilbo’s party, next week. That’s when it will be.”
“Yes, I had already decided that would be the time to ask her,” Sam said, joining Frodo at the window, “That is, if you don’t mind. It being your birthday, too, and all.”
Gathering Sam by the shoulders, Frodo drew his friend close to him. “You happy, Sam, is the best present I can give. Besides, you were right about the halls of Bag End. They should be ringing with the sound of little hobbit laughter. It is time there were children at Bag End.”
This time it was Sam who blushed.
“So, he’s doing it tonight, then?”
The three of them, Frodo, Merry and Pippin sat at a table watching Sam pace furiously behind the ale tent. He was talking to himself, waving his arms in the air, running his hands through his hair and generally looking like he was going to throw up.
“Now, I’m no expert on the subject, mind you,” Pipiin said between puffs, “But one would think you would have to be at least within earshot of the girl before you can ask her.”
The trio glanced all the way to their left and saw Rose dancing with brother on the exact opposite side of the field from the fretting Sam.
“We’ve got to help him,” Merry said, standing up. “He’ll never do it on his own.”
Frodo grabbed Merry’s arm and jerked him back down. “No you don’t! I promised Sam to keep you two out of the way. In fact, I shouldn’t have even told you what he had planned.”
With a look of feigned hurt, Pippin said, “He doesn’t trust us?”
Frodo laughed. “No, and I don’t either. Promise me you will stay away from Sam until his courage has grown enough to ask her.”
Putting their hands over their hearts, both Merry and Pippin said, with due solemnity, “I swear.”
“Frodo!,” someone called from the middle of a pack of Bracegirdles, “Come here!”
Walking away towards the summons, Frodo stopped and turned back to his friends. “Stay away from Sam.”
Merry waved him away. “Promise made is a promise kept, that’s what we Brandybucks say.”
While Pippin waved too at the retreating Frodo, he whispered, “We promised to stay away from Sam. But, not Rosie.” And with that the pair was gone in search of Sam’s wife-to-be.
Shoving his sweaty hands deep into his pockets, Sam marched across the Party Field. It was now or never, he thought. Rose was done dancing with her brother and stood off to the side alone, her eyes coyly searching the crowd. When she spied Sam, her face broke into a smile bright enough to light any dark night. Sam saw his Rosie, smiling at him and he was struck with such love that he stumbled backwards a step. He couldn’t conceive in that moment why anyone so lovely, sweet and kind would want someone like him. Rosie frowned slightly when she watched Sam stop. He looked at her sweet face, full of such promise, and that gave him the push that he needed to keep going. Sam was within 10 feet of his prize when something stepped in between them. It was Fredegar Bolger asking for a dance. And, being the polite hobbit that she was, Rose did not refuse the offer. Sam’s Rosie was whisked away into the crowd.
Standing just out of Sam’s sight, Merry and Pippin shared a wicked grin between them. The plan hatched, they went their separate ways to give true love a boost.
Pushing his way through the mass of Bracegirdles, Frodo saw trouble in the making. Merry had grabbed the nearest girl and was none too subtly manuvering towards Rose and her partner. “Oh, no.” He was on his way to stop things, but was grabbed by a Proudfoot and drwan into an agrument over which year the leaf form the South Farthing was the best.
“Excuse me,” Pippin said.
A head filled with fire red curls turned and a set of dazzling blue eyes looked up into his. His was momentarily taken aback at how much those eyes resembled the crystal clear water of the Nimrodel. “Yes?,” this perfect creature said.
When regained his wits, Pippin put on his best Took smile and said, “And who might you be, prettty lady?”
“Diamond,” she answered, her voice like music, “And my father told me to stay way from all Tooks. They’re nothing but trouble, he says.”
“And what makes you think I’m a Took?”
She laughed again and her eyes flashed with an innocence not yet lost. “Everyone knows you. Peregrin Took, the Hero of the Battle of Bywater.” Crooking her finger, she bade him lean closer. Whispering in his ear, she said, “I don’t always do what my father tells me to.”
Giggling like a young hobbit, Pippin whispered back, “I want you to do me a favor, Diamond. Do you see that hobbit over there?”
Sam had been so intent on watching his Rosie dance with another that he had not even noticed the girl’s approach.
“I have a message from Mr. Baggins.”
“From Mr. Frodo?,” he asked, scowling, “Where is he?” With all of his attention focused on Rosie, Sam had completely forgotten about his friend. How could that have happened? Rosie moved to the back of his mind as he walked towards the crowd. “Where is he?”
Taking his hand, the girl lead him across the field. “This way, I’ll show you.”
He followed the girl silently. His smind was racing. The party would soon be over and he had not had even a second alone with Rose. And now Mr. Frodo was asking for him. What started out as a perfect evening had quickly fallen into disaster.
Paying no mind to where the girl was taking him, Sam suddenly found he was in the midst of the crowd. He began to protest until he saw Rose, now dancing with Merry. This was the closest he had been to her all night. When someone called for the Circle Dance, (was that Pippin’s voice?), he quickly took a place in line. Merry, holding on to Rose’s hand like a vise, shoved his way into the line, counting the couples just to make sure he was in the right place. Giving his partner a little push, to the opposite line, he took his place beside Sam.
The band began the intro and, recognizing the dance, others soon joined the line. This threw Merry’s count way off. Grabbing Sam, he pushed him one spot to the left. No, that wasn’t rihgt. He pulled him two places to the right.
“Merry Brandybuck! What do you think you’re doing?,” Sam protested loudly as he was pulled to and fro.
Never loosing sight of Rose, Merry snapped, “Trying to help, you fool!”
Just as the first couple began to promanade, one last straggler joined the line throwing the count off for good. The interloper did not stay long in line, however, for he was pulled deftly aside, and Pippen took the newly vacated place in line. Diamond fell into her spot across from him. The count was back to rights. A job well done, Merry thought, as he watched the happy couple meet in the middle.
Sam went to the center and suddenly she was there in his arms, smiling at him. “Rosie, I want to talk to you,” was all he had time to say before their turn was done and they returned to their place in line.
Pippin ran to the middle and swung his partner, bringing her feet off the ground. It was Merry’s turn next, and, as he passed Pippin in line, he grinned and gave a big thumbs up.
The couples split into two circles and, just as planned, Sam and Rose were just where they needed to be. After what seemed to be an eternity, it was their turn in the center of the circle. She melted into him and her cheek brushed his. “There’s something I want to ask you.” Then she was gone again.
Having extricated himself from the Leaf discussion, Frodo stood surveying the dance. What he had originally perceived as potentially disasterous was turning out to be the perfect setup. Merry and Pippin, despite their promise, had meddled just enough to get Sam snd Rose together. Frodo watched them meet in the middle: Rose beaming, Sam talking quickly before they were parted again by the dance. Did he ask her?, he wondered.
They met one last time in the middle. Sam knew this would be his last chance. He cleared his throat, looked into her deep brown eyes and said, “Rose, will you…”, then she was spinning away from him. His chance had passed.
The two circles of dancers met back into the separate lines, the last bars of the tune were being played. Frodo looked at Sam’s face, but could not tell if he had been successful. A commotion in the line caught his eye. Sensing trouble, he ran headlong into the quickly deepening mass of hobbits.
As the last few steps of the dance began, where you found yourself in the arms of your partner, Merry realized that something had gone wrong. Someone was in their circle that should not have been. Rudigar Goodbody, too drunk to know better, had turned left when he should have turned right, and planted himself right where Sam should have been: as Rose’s partner.
This would not do at all! Whistling loudly, he caught Pipiin’s attention. Pointing at the swaying hobbit, he demonstrated the problem. Instantly, Pippin began to shove his way up the row, while Mieery pushed his way down.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going!,” a Boffin called when Pippin stepped on his toes and sent him sprawling on the green.
“Just because you’re a Brandybuck, don’t make you special,” a Bolger woman cried as she slapped Merry’s face.
Soon the lines were no longer straight. The genteel, country dance had turned into a shoving and shouting match. Pippin smartly dodged a smack in the arm with an umbrella only to be brought down by a pumpkin to the gut.
Merry was being chased by an irate dancer with a large wooden spoon borrowed from the cider barrel. He still had time to steal an apple, though, as he ducked a swing to the head.
The mess that used to be Bilbo’s party spread out before him. There where hobbits everywhere, some shouting, some laughing and some still eating and drinking. The band had long since ceased to play and had run away fearing flying vegatables. Down came the decorations as little hobbits tumbled together in an imitation of their elders. Frodo saw Pippin on the side lines, being nursed by a curly red head, while Merry still weaved in and out of trouble. The Party Field was awash with hobbits that had had too much to drink. The sound was deafening. Despairing that he would ever find Sam in all of this, by some miracle he glanced to his left and saw them standing together. While others rolled about their feet, Sam and Rose stood there holding hands. He was attempting to talk to her, but above all the racket, even though she was standing right next to him, she could not hear.
Just then, Merry skidded by, the spoon lady hot on his heels. Ducking around Frodo, he tried to throw her off his track. It didn’t work. She circled around, drew up behind Merry, and, just as she was about to connect spoon with hobbit, a great tomato caught her in the back of the head and brought her down sharply on her bum.
Pippin breezed by, caught his friends by the elbows, and whisked them to safety up on the bandstand.
“Some party you throw, Mr. Baggins,” Merry commented as they watched a whole apple pie tossed into the face of a sputtering Hornblower.
Frodo looked towards Sam. He was throughtly frustrated now. They could not escape the fray unfolding around them, nor could he have the moment’s peace he desperately needed. Frodo had to do something. “We’ve got to help Sam.”
“Watch out!,” Pippin cried as a bench came flying onto the tiny stage. They all ducked and the bench missed them, but plowed into the instruments left behind by their cowardly owners.
A single idea passed between the three.. Grabbing whatever was closest, Merry, Pippin and Frodo banged, blew, bleated and belched the hardest they could. The result was the single most awful sound ever heard in the Shire. Immediate silence regined over the the once tumultuous field. And into that silence one voice, trying to shout above a cacaphony that no longer existed, could be heard.
“Rose Cotton! Will you marry me!”
Eyes peeked out from under legs, throwing arms halted in mid air, dripping heads turned. Every hobbit stopped. And waited.
Taking Sam by the hand, Rose said, “It was a long time waiting for you to ask me, Samwise Gamgee. Maybe I should make you wait a little longer for my answer.”
As if of one body, the mass of hobbits leaned in, breathless.
“Please, Miss Rose, don’t make me wait,” Sam pleaded, “Don’t make me wait to hear you say Good Morning to me every day, or to feel your hand in mine at nightfall. Don’t make me wait to feel proud that you chose me, or jealous when another eyes your charms. Don’t make me wait to see you shinning out through our children’s eyes.” Bending down, Sam kneeled before her. “Please, Rosie, marry me. Don’t make me wait for my life to begin.”
All across the Party Field, hobbits did not dare to breathe, or even blink for fear of shattering the precious moment playing out before them. Frodo stood transfixed as the rest of them, awed by the capacity for that one little hobbit to love. Frodo knew, without any doubts, that Sam loved him, unceasingly. Yet, here he was promising another with that same unfailing devotion. Was that possible? For a heart to be torn in two? It was inconceivable, and at the same time Frodo believed that of all the folks in the Shire, in the whole of Middle Earth, Sam was the only one with a big enough heart to hold everyone inside.
“Well, if you put it that way,” Rose teased, and laying a small hand upon his cheek, she said, “I guess my answer would be yes.”
He stayed on his knees, just staring up at her. Sam had played this scene in his head so many times, but never once did he ever get to the part where she said yes. He had always been too frightened to hope. So, now that the moment was here before him, he found his mind completely devoid of thought.
“Kiss her, you half-wit,” his Gaffer called from his place atop a pile of Grubbs, “Take her in your arms and kiss her.”
As if she were the most fragile piece of crystal, Sam stood before his Rosie and ever so softly touched his lips to hers.
“Is that it?,” Merry shouted indignantly from the band stand, “You call that a kiss?”
In a spilt second, Sam drew Rose into him, and kissed his soon to be wife with a passion and ardor that few knew the gardner possessed.
“That’s our Sam,” Pippin said, sniffling slightly. The three friends stood together on the bandstand and watched the kiss. And they watched. And watched. It was not listed anywhere, but it was said ever after, that that kiss, the first real one between Sam and Rose, was the longest kiss ever not recorded in Shire history.
Merry put his arms around his friends, Pip on the right and Frodo on his left. “I don’t think Sam will be needing our help anymore.”
Inclining their heads slightly, the trio continued to gaze at the couple on the field. “No, I think he has matters well in hand,” Frodo said.
They watched as all of Hobbiton picked up the mess, nursed their bruises and Sam’s life began
It was indeed the grandest wedding the Shire had ever seen, at least in Gaffer’s memory. Pippin even caught the bouquet. Frodo’s face was sore from all the smiling and laughing he had done today and he rubbed his jaw as he passed out Bag End’s gate on his way to spend a week in Buckland. It was only fitting that the newlyweds should have some time alone. Frodo suspected that, by the week’s end, Bag End would be whipped into shape and be displaying a decidedly feminine touch.
After the gate, when he should have turned East towards, Buckland, he inexplicably looked west instead. He suddenly had an urge for the sea. To smell the salt, feel the spray on his face, to watch the grey sails on the horizon. So, strong was this feeling, he had to physically shake himself loose from the sea’s song. My path lies in the east, he said to himself. Yet, he could not deny this strong yearning.
Rose’s laughter wafted out of a window. Sam was happy now. Frodo need not worry about him, he would have Rose to care for and fuss over. He knew that soon he must take the burden of his own care off the shoulders of his friend, even though Sam would gladly bear it forever. In that instant, Frodo knew that, one day, he would go to sea, he would leave the Shire, Bag End and Sam. Turning East, he imagined white gulls skipping across the breeze, calling. He would go one day, but not yet. There was still one thing, a very important thing, that he must do before he took that road east. He decided in that moment, not to go east to the Grey Havens, not yet.
With one last look towards the East, Frodo turned west again. And as to began his walk to Buckland, he absently fingered a small white jewel he had always in his pocket, and under his other was Bilbo’s Red Book. “How should I begin?”