Gaffer looked up as Frodo trailed into the room smiling. They were all worried, as the midwife had stopped to clean up before actually coming in. No one yet knew how things were in the sickroom. When Hamfast saw Frodo's smile, his shoulders relaxed ever so slightly.
"You get to see them, lad?"
Frodo nodded in response, his smile dreamy. "Yeah. They're wonderful. He's beautiful!"
"He..." Gaffer breathed out, his eyes lighting up. "A son..." he smiled, his weatherworn features relaxing into a near cuddly appearance. "My son..."
Nodding eagerly, the boy hurried over to Gaffer's chair, putting his hands on the older man's knee. "He's got the loveliest eyes, Gaffer. All green and gray and soft and pretty. And he's so sweet and tiny. Boy is he tiny! But he's strong and smart already." Frodo kept babbling.
Gaffer looked surprised, letting his eyes wander over the pale, thin boy. He thought the baby pretty? That was a stunner, since Frodo was one of the prettiest Hobbit's Gaffer had ever seen. Shame he was a boy and so thin. He'd have made a lovely girl.
The boy kept babbling about how sweet the baby was and how clever and good and pretty and... it was a wonder. Frodo wasn't even related to the child and he acted more enthralled than most of the other children, except eight-year-old Daisy. Gaffer couldn't help but smile at the enthusiasm the orphaned boy displayed for the newest member of his servant's family. It sure beat the hurt fear he'd been displaying when Gaffer first met the lad three weeks before.
"Hold, lad, hold." He raised his hands as if to ward off the flow of words from the boy. "Ye haven't told us the boy's name yet." He knew what his wife had wanted to call the child, but he'd let their visitor reveal it.
The lad didn't disappoint. He stopped babbling and smiled beautifully, his large blue eyes softening. "Oh, his name is Samwise. Isn't that lovely? Samwise Gamgee."
Hamson shook his head, frowning. "Where'd that name come from? Has nothing to do with Gaffer or Mama."
Halfred nodded his agreement.
Frowning, Frodo tried to puzzle that one out. "Uh... I don't know. Maybe Sam is for Ham? And wise... uh..."
"My brother is Andwise. She's named him for my brother." Gaffer seemed quite content despite the looks of displeasure on his sons' faces. "It's a good name."
"I like it, Papa." Daisy leaned against her father, smiling in excitement. She'd been looking forward to the baby ever since May had started fighting being dressed up like a doll. "Can we see him now?"
He shook his head. "In the morning, Daisy girl. Your mother needs rest after birth. It's a lot of work to have a baby. And," he looked around the room, "speaking of work, there's luncheon to get out and chores to finish. Everyone get moving; ye've dawdled enough." Groans met the Gaffer's words but not a one of the children actually complained or back-talked. Instead, obediently, they filed out of the room; Halfred threw a jealous glance at their visitor.
Gaffer looked at Frodo. "Will you be staying to luncheon, Master Frodo?"
"Uh huh." The boy slipped up next to the Gaffer and walked with him. "Bell said she'd send for me after so I can sing to Sam."
"Sam, huh? Not even an hour old and you've made a pet of him? Well, Master Frodo, I'm right honored, I am, but Samwise'll be working more'n anything else. He'll have a living to earn, and this family has to do that by using their hands more'n their brains." He looked at him. "No offense meant to you and your cousin. Master Bilbo's a fine Hobbit and I couldn't work for better, I'm thinking. But he's a gentlehobbit, and has different ways to us. You understand, right, Master Frodo?"
Frodo looked up, his eyes studying Gaffer. "You mean Sam will have chores while I play." With a nod and a grunt, Gaffer confirmed the child's translation and they went in to join the others making lunch. The twelve-year-old paused in the doorway, watching the other children for a moment. Feeling just a bit guilty for not working, he stepped towards Halfred to help him, but was shooed away.
"I got that, Mister Frodo; it's my job and I'll do it." He glared at the other boy, hostility radiating from him, though Frodo couldn't understand why.
Hamson refused the help, telling Frodo to stay out of the way while Hobbits whom knew how to work got their jobs done. Turning from the older boy, Frodo headed towards the youngest there. May glared at him so he double-backed towards Daisy.
Of all the Gamgee children, Daisy was the most open to Frodo, but even she refused to let him help. "No, Frodo, I've got it. Thanks anyway." The eight-year-old tossed him a radiant smile to remove the sting of her reprimand. "It'll take too long to teach you, and we're hungry now. You just sit at the table and wait for luncheon."
Gaffer never said a word to stop the children from making Frodo sit instead of help. He knew the boy meant well, but he'd have to learn the difference in their stations, and it was best he learned it soon. He was a gentlehobbit, not a working class Hobbit. Therefore, Frodo wouldn't really be required to do much work in his life. He'd have servants to do it for him, just as the Brandybucks did. The man did, however, offer the lad a smile for his troubles. A good heart should always be encouraged.
Finally, luncheon was ready and all of the Gamgees, except the two in the sickroom, sat down to table with Frodo. Gaffer started piling food on plates and handing them round the table, Frodo being served first as a guest. There was no talking besides the occasional "Pass the butter" or "May I have some more greens". Rather, the room was full of the sounds of Hobbits eating their midday meal as neatly and hurriedly as possible. After all, the children had only half a day now to do a full day's chores and Gaffer still wanted to get back to Bag End to work on the gardens, despite Bilbo's offer of a day off.
By the end of the meal, Frodo was long since finished and had been watching the others. Daisy kept looking over at him and giggling, but he ignored that. Instead, the boy kept his eyes trained on Gaffer, waiting for the right time to start asking his numerous questions. When Hamfast put his knife and fork down, Frodo pounced on the opportunity.
The Gaffer looked up, signaled his children to clear the table and get to work, then looked at his guest. "Yes, Master Frodo?"
"Uh... what kind of work will Sam be doing?" He handed off his plate to Daisy with an absent smile; all thought of helping gone as quickly as it'd come.
"I reckon I'll be teaching him a lot of things, Master Frodo. He'll be learning gardening and rope making, as well as carpentry among other useful chores. Why do ye ask?"
Frodo fiddled with the tablecloth. "I was wondering how busy he'd be and when he'd start. See I want to tell him stories and stuff, but I can't if he's working. And I know you said he has to work, so I wondered when he'd not be working."
The older Hobbit nodded, thoughtfully, and leaned back in his chair. "Well... Samwise'll be just as busy as the others. If he's a good, ambitious lad he'll be even busier. And if he shows promise in gardening, I'll be training him to take over for me, as the two boys I got now aren't as good at it as I'd wish. He'll have meals free, and maybe an hour or so in the morning for playing and an hour in the evenings, until he's old enough to take on a job of his own. After that, it'll be up to whoever hires him."
"Oh." Frodo frowned, staring blindly at the table. He tried to imagine only having two hours a day to play and couldn't see it. That seemed like an awful lot of work. Maybe, when Sam got older, Bilbo would hire him so Sam could play with Frodo.
Satisfied with that plan, Frodo smiled at Gaffer suddenly. "And if someone wanted to hire him for something other than gardening? Maybe as a... uh..." he tried to find a word, since it didn't seem right to say he'd hire a friend. Friends weren't hired; they just happened on accident. "Um..."
Gaffer stood. "Master Frodo, if someone were to offer to hire any of my children, they'd be applying through me first. I'll decide if the job's worth my kids' time. Now, if'n you'll excuse me, I've got to get up to Bag End and start my work. I'm half a day behind as it is."
Frodo was suddenly torn between staying to sing to Bell and Samwise or going back home and maybe helping Gaffer. He felt bad again for not working. Finally, his pride took over and he softly offered, "Would you like some help, Gaffer, sir?"
"Well, I'll be..." Gaffer smiled down at the boy. "I thank you, Master Frodo, for the kind offer, but I believe I can handle it. Maybe it'd be best if you help Bell with the baby." He watched to see how the compromise would sit, as Hamfast figured Frodo would prefer that task anyway.
He was right. Frodo's face lit up and he smiled. "Would that really help? Oh, I'd love to help Bell with Sam!" He clapped his hands and hopped a few times in excitement.
Gaffer laughed. "Go ahead, lad, she'll be wanting you soon anyhow." And with that, the older Hobbit walked out the door, jamming his hat over his dusky auburn curls.
"Yippee!" The boy turned and headed at a trot towards the sickroom, excitement still vibrating through him. He had been thinking the other children were mad because he wasn't working, but Gaffer gave him work to do. Help Bell... that'd be perfect. And he could tell the others he really did know how to work so they could stop being angry.
As he rounded the corner out of the kitchen, Frodo ran headlong into Halfred. The other Hobbit was only one year younger than Frodo, but somehow it seemed a wider gap than one year lay between them. The other boy sneered and pushed Frodo up against a wall.
"Listen, Mister Frodo. You're rich and it means you don't do nothing but sit around useless. We're poor and have to work. So stop rubbing it in. You just leave us be. Go ahead and sing and talk all day, but you don't go making us feel bad anymore just cause we don't got what you got. It's mean!"
Frodo blinked. "Huh? But... I wasn't... I..."
Halfred didn't stay to listen. He stomped towards the kitchen and the waiting dishes it was his turn to clean. Frodo watched the angry boy go, bewildered by the accusation. He shook his head, slowly starting back to the bedroom. He couldn't understand this family. Maybe everyone was right; maybe they just weren't the same.
When the confused child walked into Bell's room, again without knocking, his blue eyes were wide and troubled. He watched his feet, scuffing his toes across well-cleaned floors. In fact, he was so bewildered that he didn't even look up to see if Bell wanted him in there. He just slumped over to the bed and threw himself down next to the woman.
"Uh oh... what's happened, Frodo?" Bell's voice was soft and kind. She reached out a hand to caress his curls. When he looked up at her, her soft gray eyes held compassion.
He broke into tears he hadn't even expected. "The others hate me!"
"Oh." She slipped her arm around him and gave him a hug, carefully balancing the infant in her lap instead. "What's happened with them?" She didn't argue his assumption, didn't patronize him. Her question was straightforward and sympathetic. She believed that he felt the others hated him and wanted to hear his side, rather than blindly defend the others, despite being their mother. Bell didn't believe her children really hated Frodo, but they'd given him that impression, and that was bad enough.
"They hate me 'cause I don't work." He scrubbed at his eyes, trying to stop the tears, but found himself just crying harder.
Bell nodded and caressed his shoulder. "Oh, Sweetie... it's rough being different." She dropped a kiss to his dark curls.
Frodo turned wide eyes up to her. "You understand perfectly!" He was surprised, but knew he should have expected that. She'd understood him these three weeks. He threw his arms around her, still conscious of the infant in her lap. Hugging her, the boy felt much better. "You're my best friend, Bell. You're my only friend."
Little Samwise opened his gray-green eyes and whimpered. Frodo looked down at the infant and smiled. He touched the baby's cheek, watching as Sam turned into the touch, seeking something known only to instinct and infants. Frodo couldn't even take his eyes off of the little boy.
"He's my friend, too. You don't hate me, do you, Sam?"
The baby didn't seem to respond, but he certainly didn't pull away or cry, either. That made Frodo feel accepted, loved. "I think Bilbo's my friend, too, Bell." It was then that the boy noticed his companion hadn't spoken. He tore his gaze away from the baby to look up at the mother.
She smiled gently at him. "Yes, I count three friends so far. I think you'll get many more. Remember what I said when we met? Four families. So far, this is two."
"But that means I've gotta make friends with a Brandybuck and a Took, and they don't live in Hobbiton, Bell. I'm not gonna make friends if I never meet anyone, am I?" His voice was earnest.
With a soft laugh, Bell gently picked up her son. "Hold out your arms Frodo, just like you're going to hold a very large loaf of bread." When he did as instructed, she ever so carefully lay the baby in the boy's arms, continuing what she'd been saying. "You'll meet them later, Frodo. You can make friends at any age, you know, not just when you're a child. I would hope you'd make friends with my other children, but that's something they'd have to want, too. Friendship is a two-way sort of thing."
Frodo wasn't really paying much attention. He had frozen in place, hardly daring to breathe. The weight of the tiny Hobbit in his arms terrified him, but if asked he wouldn't have given it up for all the friends in the Shire. This was Samwise Gamgee, his baby. True, he'd had nothing to do with this baby until three weeks ago, but it didn't matter. Somehow, deep down, they belonged to each other. Naturally, Frodo could never have described what he felt, even to Bell. It wasn't even a conscious thought. It was just a belonging that couldn't be argued with.
Sam's eyes were closed again.
Frowning, Frodo looked up at Bell. "Is he asleep?" He sounded worried; afraid that maybe he'd hurt or killed Sam or something. After all, he hadn't had much luck keeping people around who liked him. That thought threatened to overwhelm him with tears again, but Bell's response chased it away.
"He's definitely awake. See, when you spoke, his eyes opened again. I think he knows you Frodo Baggins." She hugged him again, keeping one hand under Sam's head and neck.
"Sam... isn't he tiny, Bell? Think he'll be a big Hobbit or a little one? I think maybe he'll be a little one 'cause he's so little."
"Oh, I don't know. I think he'll be like the Gaffer, actually. He has that look about him."
"You think?" Frodo started studying the baby again. Finally, he unwrapped the soft blanket he'd brought in earlier. Bell didn't yell at him to keep the baby warm. She merely watched, smiling, as Frodo started touching any and every part of the baby. "One... two... three..." he was counting Sam's toes. After finding ten, he nodded as if to mark that point and started on the fingers. After a thorough count of tiny fingers, he started on ears, nose, eyes, and other bits. Finally, Frodo looked up. "He's got everything he needs, right Bell?"
Bell laughed. "Yes, I believe he does, Sweetie. Everything a Hobbit could ever need." She loved looking at her son, as only a mother could. Seeing him also through Frodo's wondering eyes was a double pleasure. "What do you plan to do with him, now, Frodo?"
"Now? Or when he's grown up?" Frodo had always had a clever mind.
"When he's grown, Frodo." The woman shifted against her pillows and hesitantly let go of Sam's head and neck, satisfied when she was sure Frodo was properly supporting the infant.
Frodo tilted his head and looked down at Sam. "I want to hire him so he can have time to play with me. And we'll tell stories to each other and live up at Bag End and everything!" He beamed at Bell, but the smile dropped a bit as he saw the worry on her face. "What?"
She sighed. "I'm not sure Gaffer will like Samwise being hired out just to play and tell stories, Frodo. He'll want Sam to have what he thinks is a more important job. But," she touched the child's nose and smiled, "I'm sure you'll get plenty of time together as he grows up. He won't get chores until he's four, and Gaffer'll make sure he has a couple of hours to play every day."
"Two hours isn't enough. Sam deserves more playtime! He's a good baby!" Frodo was indignant for the boy the baby would become.
Bell nodded. "Whether he deserves it or not isn't the question, Frodo. Of course he's a good baby. But there are rules in the world, and Samwise will have to live by those rules. After all, the Shire runs on rules so people don't get hurt." She lifted Frodo's chin. "Breaking the rules can hurt people, and not just the person who broke the rules. It can hurt a lot of people." Bell hugged him again.
With a deep sigh, the boy nodded. "I... I know, Bell. But it's not fair. Everyone hates me because I don't work. And Sam won't get to play. Maybe he'll hate me, too." He wanted to cry at that thought.
"Sam won't ever hate you," Bell's soft voice was a promise. "He'll love you as much as I do."
Frodo's head shot up, tears filling his eyes. "You love me?"
"Yes, I do, Frodo. If Bilbo hadn't adopted you, I'd have asked Gaffer to."
That was too much for the little boy; he'd gone over the wide range of emotions, from elation to fear to grief, all in the course of a day. He broke down crying, burying his face against Sam. Bell looked sadly at him, wanting to help but knowing anything she said would make this even more overwhelming for the poor child. She stayed quiet as he sobbed into the baby's belly.
Suddenly, with a gasp, Frodo started to raise his head and stopped. Sam had gripped some of Frodo's curls when they brushed his tiny hand. He gurgled softly, wide eyes trained on Frodo. The boy could pick up his head only enough to stare right back at the infant through tear drenched blue eyes.
"Oh..." his voice was soft with wonder, a slight hiccup ending the exclamation.
Bell smiled. "They say that at this young the baby can't focus yet, Sweetie. What do you think?"
Frodo smiled, hiccuping again. "I think... that he sees... me, Bell..." he lay his head down, carefully turning it so he didn't break the hold Sam had on him. He listened to the fast heartbeat of the tiny body beneath his cheek. "He really sees me."
"I think you're right. And, Frodo?"
"Yeah?" Frodo's voice was still soft with wonder.
"I don't think Sam will ever care if you work or not. In fact, I think he'd rather you didn't work." Bell had no idea what would really happen in the future, but the child needed to know that being what he was would be acceptable to those who cared for him.
Frodo sighed. "Yeah. I think you're right. Not everybody hates me, huh, Bell?"
Bell bent enough to kiss the boy. "No, I think the most important people already love you, Sweetie. Bilbo, me, and Sam."
"Yeah..." Frodo turned his head to kiss Sam's belly, eliciting a responsive gurgle once more. "Sam..."
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