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Author Note: Written for Larner, for the Livejournal LOTR_Community Yule Fic Exchange. She requested a story from this prompt: “Frodo or Sam suddenly bursts into unexpected tears in response to some simple stimulus. What is the situation, why did it evoke such an emotional response, and how do others respond to this unexpected turn of events?”
Disclaimer: The Professor's beloved characters don't belong to me; I just get to think about them day and night.
There and Back Again
It was evening, and Merry and Pippin were sitting together outside of Bag End, smoking their pipes and talking quietly. All at once, the front door opened and Sam walked past them, as if in a trance, without seeming to even notice they were there.
“Hoy, Sam, is everything all right?” Pippin called out.
Sam halted, and slowly turned around. When they saw his pallor, and the tears on his face, the cousins leaped up in alarm.
“Sam, what is it?” Merry asked urgently. “You’re white as a sheet!”
“Is it Rosie, or the baby?” Pippin asked fearfully.
“N… no, they’re fine. They’re both just fine.” Sam slowly brought one hand to his face, seemingly surprised at the wetness there. Feeling a handkerchief being pressed into his other hand, he looked up and met Pippin’s concerned eyes.
“I’m all right,” Sam said shakily. “Just had a bit of a startle, you might say.” He blew his nose, and took a deep breath. “You’ll both think I’ve gone daft at last.”
“Of course we won’t,” Merry insisted. “You’re the sanest hobbit I know. Present company included.”
“I agree,” Pippin said, punching Merry on the arm.
“Well,” Sam continued with a dazed look on his face, “Rosie delivered the babe, just a few minutes ago. A healthy, beautiful lad. When I looked into his eyes for the first time… it was the strangest thing…” Pippin and Merry exchanged a glance, but didn’t speak. “It was like… I was suddenly looking down a long tunnel, and… I saw Mr. Bilbo’s face, plain as day! Then he was gone, and so was the tunnel. But then…” Sam swallowed hard, and the tears started to flow again. “For just a second, I thought the babe was looking at me with... with Mr. Bilbo’s eyes. And then he was just my sweet lad again, yawning and blinking just like any newborn. Something twisted in my heart, all strange like, and I just found the tears a-comin’ of their own accord. I told Rosie it was ‘cause I was so happy, which of course I was.” He looked around, confused. “I don’t remember coming out here.”
“That surely was strange, Sam,” Pippin said.
“Mr. Bilbo looked ever so much older’n when we last saw him,” Sam mused.
“He’d be more than 140 by now,” Merry swiftly calculated. “He couldn’t possibly still be alive.”
“We don’t know that,” Pippin insisted. “Who knows what happens out there where the ships sail to?” He gazed at Sam thoughtfully. “Maybe it was finally his time, and you sensed it somehow.”
“We’ve surely seen an awful lot in our travels that’s a good bit stranger than that, haven’t we?” Sam agreed. “Maybe Mr. Bilbo did pass on, and his journey took him through Bag End one last time.”
“That’s a nice thought,” Merry said gently. They heard a burst of glad voices from inside, and a flurry of hobbity activity from the visiting relations. “Why don’t you get back to Rosie? I’m sure you both could use a cup of tea. And Marigold and Estella have been baking all day, you know.”
“That sounds grand,” Sam said. His eyes grew soft with love for his wife and family, and suddenly he felt much better. “You haven’t seen the babe yet! Such a handsome little lad, Rosie’ll be wanting to show him off.”
“I’m so happy for you both,” Merry said earnestly.
“We take turns naming the children, you know,” Sam told them.
“And whose is it this time?”
“Mine.” Of his odd experience, Sam now only remembered Mr. Bilbo’s face, and how dear it had always been to him. He smiled. “Maybe we’ll name this one after Mr. Bilbo.”
“I’m sure that would please the old fellow very much. Go on in, Sam. We’ll come soon.”
After Sam walked back inside, whistling, Merry turned to Pippin.
“Now you’re the one who looks like you’ve seen a ghost, Pip. Whatever is the matter?”
Pippin was staring at him, wide eyed. “You heard what he said, Meriadoc, and don’t pretend you didn’t. Don’t you remember Glorfindel, and the story about how he died, and came back? And Gandalf, he did too. And that Beren fellow.”
“And Gimli told us that the seven original longfathers of his folk were reborn,” Pippin continued breathlessly. “People come back, Merry!”
“Peregrin Took,” Merry said with a frown, “are you actually implying that Cousin Bilbo passed on, and has come back... as Sam’s new baby?”
“Remember what he used to say?” Pippin asked urgently. “‘There's always been a Baggins living here under the Hill, in Bag End. And there always will be.’”
Merry felt a shiver go through him.
“You just keep any such thoughts to yourself,” he said at last. “Sam and Rosie have enough to think about, without imagining that their wee Bilbo-lad is anything other than he appears. Which of course he isn’t.”
“Off with you,” Merry said firmly, pushing his cousin back towards the front door. “Not a word about this to anyone, ever. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Pippin sighed, then he started to laugh. “Oh my, the whole notion really is quite silly, isn’t it? I don’t know what I was thinking!”
“It’s been a very long day,” Merry said. “No wonder Sam thought he saw... well, whatever it was.”
“Ten children now, can you imagine?” Pippin marveled. “And Frodo knew Sam would have lots of them. I hope he knows about this wonderful family, and how happy they are.”
“I’m sure he does,” Merry said confidently.
“Yes?” Merry asked warily.
“When you were in the kitchen last, were there any of Stella’s pies left?”
Frodo lay on his back on the warm sand, the Sun sending bright sparkles through his closed eyelids. When a dark, cool shadow moved over him, he opened his eyes and smiled.
“Hullo, Gandalf,” he said, sitting up.
“Are you well, my friend?”
“Yes,” Frodo said. “Bilbo was happy everywhere he lived, you know – Bag End, Rivendell, and our home here. I know that wherever he is now, he’s found as much joy as even he can handle.” He gazed westward, and upward, to where the Eagle had flown Bilbo’s body to rest upon one of the highest peaks in Aman. “How he loved mountains,” he said softly.
“That he did,” Gandalf agreed. “I have no doubt that Bilbo has indeed found his way home, dear lad.”
“Hardly a lad any longer!” Frodo said with a chuckle. “Will you join me for luncheon, Gandalf? I’d like to show you the last of the poetry Bilbo was writing.”
“I would enjoy that very much,” Gandalf said fondly. As Frodo went to gather up the opalescent shells he had found in the surf, the Maia felt his attention being strongly pulled back eastward, across the great Sea. His eyes widened, and slowly he shook his head in wonder.
“My word,” he murmured. “How extraordinary. Leave it to hobbits to still surprise me at a pinch.”
“What was that?” Frodo asked, coming to his side.
“Just a bit of news,” Gandalf said lightly. “I sense that another Gamgee has entered the world.”
“Oh, how delightful!” Frodo exclaimed with joy. “Sam and Rosie must be so happy. So many children! More than I ever imagined. My goodness, they must be starting to scramble for names.”
“Not quite yet,” Gandalf said softly. And as they walked up the grassy knoll together, he began to sing:
“Roads go ever ever on, under cloud and under star,
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